How to handle customer complaints successfully. Your 7-point action plan

Monday 27 June 2016

Whilst people are very happy to complain vociferously about the result of the EU referendum or the performance of their favourite football team, dissatisfied customers, in fact, very rarely complain directly to an organisation. Just think about the number of times, when in a restaurant you might have been asked whether “everything is alright?” and yet despite being extremely disappointed with the quality of the meal, you have just smiled and said, “Thank you. Everything is great.” In fact, research has shown that only 1 in every 26 dissatisfied B2B customers actually make a complaint (TARP 1999). Just imagine how many unhappy but silent customers you might have and how many of your former customers might have quietly moved their business to a competitor?

So how does handling customer complaints fit into your overall business strategy? There is no doubt that business growth continues to be a critical driver of performance, as measured by total returns to shareholders (McKinsey 2015). And that sustained growth requires organisations to have the ability to win and keep customers.

The key drivers of good acquisition and retention strategies depend on an organisation having a good grasp on the customer journey and the ability to respond to ever evolving customer needs. Many businesses have adapted their systems to reduce costs, to be more efficient or to speed up a customer call – but during this process they might have lost the customer viewpoint. So unless you can make it easy for customers to do business with you (which can be measured as your customer effort score) you could be heading towards increasing levels of customer dissatisfaction and lower customer retention rates.

Naturally, effective complaint handling plays an important role in your approach to customer retention and your business growth strategy. Therefore, it is critical that your complaint handling procedures are intuitive and customer-centred.

Why not take a look at our 7-point checklist to review your customer complaint handling strategy?

Your 7-point action plan

  1. Benchmark current levels of satisfaction and identify key sources of complaints
  2. Review your key customer journeys and adapt to reflect your customer’s changing needs and improve systems and processes to reduce the level of complaints
  3. Ensure your customers can complain via their preferred channel – which could include social media, live chat, visit to store or a letter
  4. Support business transformation with on-going training and coaching programmes to embed changes in your team’s attitudes and behaviours so as to deliver the required service levels over the long-term
  5. Senior management need to be prepared to lead from the front and communicate the organisation’s vision
  6. Middle management / frontline management play a crucial role to deliver outstanding customer service at every customer touch-point. Ensure these people understand the vision and are trained to implement the strategy
  7. Monitor impact of changes, identify new areas for improvement and avoid complacency

To find out more about effective complaint handling in your organisation, please do get in touch. We would love to hear from you.

"Why it is still a world of grow or go”
McKinsey 2015

This post was written by

Mark BW McDermott

Account Director