Customer complaints, concerns, or feedback?

Customer complaints, concerns, or just feedback?

Some organisations are looking to define the differences between a customer complaint, a concern, or whether it is ‘just’ feedback. Presumably to prioritise resources for resolution the customers’ issues but perhaps also to impact any KPIs the business may have around complaints management.

All feedback provides insight

Surely if we are to see any feedback from customers as being valuable and a privilege that the customer has bestowed on the organisation, whether it is considered a complaint or a concern should not impact the customer experience and view of the other party? Yet it seems some organisations are focussed on complaint management to the detriment of the valuable insight being offered by its customers.

Customer’s perspective

Defining the difference between a complaint and a concern is being internally focused. Perhaps it is being driven by organisations having established processes to handle complaints and wanting to align resources against them to solve them, or at least ‘get rid’ of them. It is however, surely very subjective. Firstly on behalf of the customer, one individual may feel more emotionally involved in an issue, that may have been ongoing for a long time, and feels they want to it to be considered a complaint, whilst another person looking at the same issue may look at it is ‘feedback’. For example when the waiter in the restaurant asks ‘is everything OK with your meal?’ and the customer says it could do with being a bit warmer, is that a complaint, or just feedback to the kitchen? You’d struggle to know how to interpret that without having the emotion attached to it. How do you capture that customer emotion when some may show it more readily than others?

Employee’s perspective

Secondly on behalf of the employee how does the individual receiving the feedback / complaint interpret it, and how then the organisation that he / she works for wants to handle it? So taking the restaurant example, the waiter may offer to get it reheated, and it’s done, or may choose to raise it with the restaurant owner who then again has to decide whether it’s a complaint or just some feedback / concern.

Customer complaints, concerns, or feedback – Protection from customers

Many organisations in the public sector, and those industries that are heavily regulated, appear to have now put complaints processes in place to protect themselves, not to actually help the customer. They are able to claim the ‘feedback’ is now in a nicely packaged process. We’ve all experienced the issue of being frustrated with a supplier and seeking a solution, and then being told the only way to get it resolved is to raise a formal complaint. That’s hassle for the customer, but fits the company process nicely, and offers the strong possibility that the customer won’t progress the issue further, but will take their business elsewhere, and strongly communicate their views to anyone else more willing to listen! Not customer focussed at all.

So for those organisations looking to define a difference between a complaint and a concern, is it not better to focus the limited resource on improving the customer experience by viewing all customer feedback, whether a complaint or a concern, as an invaluable tool to help them understand and therefore be in a better position to improve the customer’s experience, and probably drive down costs of dealing with them?

Culture and employee empowerment

At the end of the day something hasn’t gone according to the customer’s expectations, how you deal with it as an organisation is more to do with the culture of the organisation and how much empowerment is given to individuals, not what process to follow, or what lable to attach to the insight.

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