Complaints are a gift!
We all have relationships where someone complains (family, friends, neighbours, service users and providers).
Complaints are simply an ordinary interaction when people are in some form of ‘relationship’.
From a service delivery/business point of view, customers should be a top priority.
Jeff Bezos (Amazon CEO) holds that you start with what the customer needs and work backward from there.
With the utilisation of social media and blogs, experiences (good and bad) spread faster than ever. Humans generally don’t share good experiences, but negative ones can now be shared with literally thousands, almost instantaneously.
Add this; some people don’t complain at all – they simply stop accessing services/business. That, in and of itself, may very well be a complaint; but organisations often never find out why. Without knowing, how can the issue/problem be rectified?
For their part, customers, who complain, do so after investing their time in telling you what has not worked for them – they’re giving you the heads up.
Organisations/services benefit because:
1. You now know what is not working well;
2. The status quo is challenged;
3. You get the opportunity to rectify it and improve;
4. Improving forces you to be your best;
5. Believe it or not, by complaining, the customer may still want to receive service from you/do business with you.
Janelle Barlow, in her book A Complaint is a Gift – provides insights into treating complaints as a gift. Underscoring these insights is the principle of always letting the complainant know what you can/will do, not what you can’t/won’t:
1. Thank the person for their complaint. You are thanking them because you too care about the relationship and you can learn from their experience.
2. Be genuinely sorry they have had the negative experience – apologise.
3. Focus on how to solve the problem/issue.
4. Seek more information and their input into the possible solutions.
5. Take the steps to rectify the problem.
6. Make sure to learn.
Keep in mind that customers who complain have needs:
a) As an individual
• To be heard;
• To be understood;
• To be treated respectfully.
b) As a customer
• To receive the service, they expected;
• To have the issue dealt with promptly and fairly;
• To have a resolution.
Once you receive a complaint, you need to respond. Here is a structure for dealing with complaints:
• Acknowledge and communicate with the customer who complained;
• Remain customer focussed;
• Link complaints to service improvement;
• Include the action and time-frame in which the issue will be resolved;
• Make the improvements.
Empathy is REALLY important.
Ensure you have an appropriate mechanism in place, based on the principles of natural justice, to record, track and monitor complaints. In establishing or consolidating these, consider both the Lifetime Customer Value (LCV) and the Voice of the Customer (VoC).
If you need more convincing, consider this, it will cost your organisation more to repair the reputational damage from a negative experience than it will to invest in resolving one complaint.
I can help you develop the strategies and resources to relish the next complaint, view it as a golden egg, a blessing in disguise; it is a great opportunity to learn and strengthen the relationship with customers (customer loyalty).