4 ways to deal effectively with complaints

13th Jun 2016

The most recent UK Customer Satisfaction Index reveals that there is a growing expectation for compensation from customers. However, 43% of complainants say they won’t use a company they’ve complained to again. So are we confusing readily given compensation with good customer service? Here are four other ways to handle customer complaints. 

1. Try to resolve the problem

“Rather than try and sort out the problem, some organisations find it easier to send a gift card,” says Jo Moran, head of customer service at Marks & Spencer. “They have fallen back on this as an easy opt-out.” 

Mike Kirkley, managing director at Essilor, which supplies spectacle lenses to independent opticians, agrees. “I think some of the larger retailers don’t talk with customers,” he says. “[For them] it is all about taking the issue away as fast as possible, without the need for an explanation or understanding.” 

2. Make the most of social media and email

The increase in the number of channels customers can use to voice their complaints has led to many complaining on social media. Suppliers can use the same technology to deal with complaints.

“We get in touch straight away when we see someone complaining on social media,” says Moran. “We listen to what the customers say and try our best to put it right.” 

Some customers will also now email their complaints direct to management, bypassing the customer services team.

“If a case reaches me, I respond quickly,” says Kirkley. “The team has the same authority that I do but, in some cases, customers feel happier if they have made their comments to the boss.”

3. Be aware of fraudulent claims

Unfortunately social media led to fraudsters posting fake complaints and asking for compensation. 

Fraudsters often don’t give a great deal of detail in their complaint and will ask for quite specific sums of money, whereas genuine complainants tend to value an apology or explanation over financial compensation, Moran explains.

‘Straight away we tell customers that we are sorry that this may have happened and we then investigate,” she says. “We work very closely with our fraud team.”

4. Listen carefully

Giving the customer time to fully discuss their complaint is another key factor in resolving them. It also enables companies such as M&S to trial new systems.

“We have been exploring offering people something relevant to their experience,” explains Moran. “If they complain about poor service, we try to get them back into the store to have a coffee and chat with the store manager. So far, customers have thought this is great and they have really enjoyed the personal contact.”

Kirkley is also keen to avoid “compensation culture” at Essilor, advocating a more personal touch. “Should we fail, we are proactive and make sure customers are kept fully informed,” he says. “Just giving doesn’t work. You need to reach the customer and listen to them and work through their reasons for being unhappy.”


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