25th Jun 2010

A complaint is a gift. What happens when someone complains makes the difference between retaining and loosing a customer.


Around 25% of people don’t complain about a problem and this rises to 75% if the problem relates to service. Although some dissatisfied customers won’t complain to the organisation they will tell their family and friends about the problems they’ve had.

Reasons why customers don’t complain include:

Some guidelines for handling complaints are:

Make it easy for the customer to complain

Make sure customers understand and know the process to complain whether it’s face-to-face, telephone, letter, e-mail or internet.

Always Apologise

Always apologise to the customer even if only for the fact they’ve felt the need to complain.

Resolve at the point of entry

Whenever and wherever possible resolve at the point of entry so that the customer is not ‘bounced’ around the organisation and passed from one department/ person to another. Staff should be encouraged to take responsibility so that if they are the first person a customer raises their complaint with they should take ownership and ensure that the problem is resolved. Generally customers are not interested in who or what is to blame, they just want their problems put right quickly and efficiently.

Keep Investigation to a minimum

Empower staff to resolve as early as possible. This saves the complaint escalating and ensures that the customer is kept happy by resolving their complaint quickly.

Compensate – compensate early, well

In many cases apologising and putting things right are enough to satisfy the customer. However there are some instances where compensation is appropriate. This is not necessarily ‘cash’; sometimes a bottle of wine or some flowers is a well received gesture. When considering compensation it is important to put yourself in the customer’s shoes and try to imagine how you would feel if you had experienced the same problem and the level of inconvenience or distress suffered by the customer. Consider each case on its own merits and the incidental costs incurred by the customer whilst pursuing their complaint: telephone costs etc

Use feedback to get better

Gather feedback and complaint information. Review this information frequently to highlight trends, training /communication needs and identify areas for improvement. Include this information in action or improvement plans.

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