Customer complaints – collecting the right feedback

Collect customer feedback and analyse customer complaints.  Increasingly companies are recognising the value of a customer complaint in that it is free feedback on their experience, and an opportunity to not only resolve a problem for that particular customer but perhaps also for a much larger number of customers. A quote we often share with our clients on the value of a complaint is:

A person who complains is our friend: they are paying us a compliment by expressing their confidence in our ability to put things right.  We must thank them for giving us that opportunity and ensure that we both solve the problem and offer recompense sufficient to restore their confidence.

Yet how do you make sure you gather all of the information available from a complaint in order to both solve the individual’s complaint, but also prevent it happening for future customers? How do you maximise the value of that complaint?

In order to answer that we need to look at the common barriers to collecting feedback:

  1. Culture. Are staff actively encouraged to embrace customer feedback, even when it’s a customer complaint? Some companies have a culture where they believe their duty is to protect the organisation from unscrupulous customers who are only in it for themselves and are looking to benefit from the company’s approach to handling complaints. This is often focused around financial benefit through compensation. One company we worked with certainly had a situation where the actions of a tiny minority of customers had led staff to distrust all customers. A series of urban myths had developed throughout the company to the point where all customer complaints and returns were distrusted.
  2. Measurement. Are customer complaints measured by the yard or by their value? Companies that record the volume of customer complaints and then place it on a scorecard, with a target of reducing the volume, are not only hiding the truth of what customers experience but also aren’t benefitting from the value of that feedback. Having a view of “what you don’t know can’t harm you” is in fact facing 180 degrees in the wrong direction. Driving the behaviour of employees to avoid recording and reporting complaints can only be bad for the organisation.
  3. Time. Colleagues can be under enormous time pressure to handle a customer as quickly as possible and move onto the next one. This can both be in a contact centre and in a more face to face situation. Surely if the customer has committed their time to telling you about the issue the very least you can do is find the time to listen to them? Closely associated with that is the time to accurately record the complaint, and clearly the time to resolve the issue.
  4. Data collection. How easy at the point at where the customer is complaining is it to collect and accurately record that feedback? Are there standard data collection fields that should be used to support trend analysis, yet also the opportunity to collect incident specific feedback? Are staff well briefed on why they are collecting the feedback and the importance of recording it accurately, rather than simply selecting the first option from a dropdown menu? Is there a clear definition of each data collection field to help remove any ambiguity?
  5. Valued. Is the customer complaint data collected proactively used by the business, both in terms of that specific transaction and more widely? Is the individual / team recognised for the value of the level of detail they have captured?
  6. Making it easy to complain. Companies need to ensure that it is easy for customers to give this valuable feedback. We have all been told “you’ll need to write that all down in a letter and post it to head office”. How few of us do that, but how many of us simply choose to take our business elsewhere, and tell our friends and colleagues of the company’s poor service.

Many of these barriers to collecting feedback will be covered in our presentation at the conference on How to turn Public Sector Complaints into Service Improvements in Manchester on June 21st and in London on June 27th. (Click on these links to benefit from a unique offer to attend at half price)

Take the next step

To discuss maximising the value of customer complaints, get in touch.

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