8th Jun 2015
There are real benefits in prioritising and improving complaints handling:
Definition of a complaint
When a customer feels strongly enough that his or her expectations have not been met, he or she may make a complaint.
A complaint is when a customer brings a problem to the attention of the organisation and expects some redress, probably over and above simply supplying the original product or service that was the cause of the complaint.
Complaints are often used by regulators as one measure of the success of the organisation’s customer service.
In the UK Customer Satisfaction Index uses two questions to establish who has complained:
Have a clear, flexible welcoming and open policy on complaints. A complaint is a gift when a customer gives up their time to help you improve your organisation.
Give them confidence to tackle the difficult customers and support in their actions. Excellent complaint handling isn't easy and can sometimes be stressful and feel unrewarding. Confirm its importance in providing great customer service.
3. Give complaining enough priority and authority
Staff should be aware that complaints are a top priority item for your operation, and anyone who deals with them must have sufficient authority to resolve them completely.
There are 4 main ways to complain – in person, by telephone, by mail, by email/internet. Your organisation must be able to handle all of these efficiently.
You can learn a lot about problems with internal processes, training, specific employees/managers, and product for free.
Say that you are sorry that the problem has happened. This is not an admission of guilt and it does demonstrate respect for the customer.
It is true that there are some professional complainers, but they are in the minority. if you are a local store, you probably know them anyway. Accepting the customer may well have a point can trigger ideas for an acceptable resolution.
Let the customer give you all of the information. This will help you fully understand the situation and, if the customer is emotional, this will give them time to calm down. Don't offer the complainant a free gift straight away. It's very tempting to give the customer a gift, or vouchers. In many cases it is good service, but too often it is done instead of solving the problem, which can lead to more complaints about the same thing because it hasn’t been fixed.
All of the other suggestions are pointless if you don't fix the problem. Make sure that your definition of the right fix is the same as the customer's.
Fix the process: Train staff in the issue and eliminate the fault. Wherever possible let the complaining customer know that they have helped you resolve a problem. They'll come back again and again and will probably spread the word.
Do you have a continuous improvement culture? Do you check customer (and employee) satisfaction regularly? Do you check the quality of the goods sold in your organisation?It costs at least 5 times as much to gain a new customer than keep an existing one, and takes 56 days on average. Keeping this complaining customer should be the top priority, and at these cost ratios you can afford to be generous in your time and effort.
In person complainers hopefully always get dealt with, but make sure that everyone who complains on the telephone, by letter, or by E-mail gets a rapid and appropriate response.
They nearly always care about your company and doing a good job and are much closer to the customers than you are. Ask their views regularly and make changes when they are sensible. Make sure their complaints are handled too.
It's not that your staff don't listen to what you say, it’s that they do listen, so make sure that you are always setting the right example, and giving complaints your personal priority. Reward good complaints handling.