The five pillars of complaint handling

22nd Dec 2015

How organisations resolve problems is one of the key tests of their customer service capabilities. But while the business of complaint handling is beset by complexity and uncertainty, there are steps that organisations can take to ensure they provide the best possible solution for each and every complaint brought before them – for both the customer and the business. 

1. Be clear

Ensure your organisation has a clear definition of a complaint and that this filters down across the business. It’s also important to provide straightforward ways for customers to provide feedback using the channel of their choice. Ensure these channels are monitored regularly – particularly in the case of social media – to increase response times and efficiency. Finally, encourage accountability within your organisation and ensure teams and individuals are clear about the role they play in handling complaints. 

2. Be proactive

Train your staff to detect and anticipate problems. In particular, be sensitive to the silent sufferers – customers who have a problem but don’t report it for a variety of reasons, including the belief that it won’t make a difference or is too much hassle. If you operate in a sector where a high proportion of customers tend to suffer in silence, it may be helpful to invite customers to offer feedback and share tips for improvement. This could take the form of a customer survey, or simply require front-line staff to ask customers if they’re happy with the service they receive.

3. Do your research

Analyse the types of complaints that customers make about you, and identify any issues that seem to reoccur. Where possible, benchmark the types of complaints that customers are making about you with those being made about other organisations in your sector, and compare your customer satisfaction rates.

4. Be human

People respond to people, so it’s important to listen carefully, be sympathetic and show that you understand the nature of the problem – whether responding to a complaint on social media, by email, over the phone or in person. No matter what channel you use, take responsibility for the fault, offer a workable solution and ensure the organisation follows through on it. 

5. Follow up

Organisations that lead from the top will have the best-implemented strategies. If a front-line employee handles a complaint, senior managers should then follow up with a phone call to check the problem has been resolved. This not only completes the healing process but also shows that your organisation takes customer feedback seriously across the board.      

To read the Institute’s full strategic and practical guide to complaint handling, click here. 

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