Five ways to handle customer complaints effectively

Sunday 30 June 2013

Five ways to handle customer complaints effectively
Successful organisations will always be looking at ways to improve their customer service. Whilst the objective should always be 100% service quality success, failures will occur from time to time. How the business recovers the situation can make the difference between losing a customer or gaining an advocate with many years of future loyal custom.

Research has shown that a customer who has complained to an organisation and had their complaint resolved to their satisfaction will tell an average of five people about the service they have received* whilst an unhappy client who has not had their complaint handled effectively will tell ten people.

1. Make it easy for your clients to complain
Customers who complain are much more likely to continue to do business with your organisation. Ensure that your complaints process is simple – for example, in some businesses, the first person to hear the complaint owns the complaint until it is resolved satisfactorily. However,  if the process is difficult to navigate and customers are required to jump through a number of hoops, these dissatisfied customers will simply give up and take their custom elsewhere.

2. Own up to the service failure
Put your hands up and accept that you have made a mistake. Then ensure that the issue is resolved quickly and to the satisfaction of the customer. Speed and clarity of service recovery is important, as you do not wish to have unhappy customers who are uncertain of the complaints handling process and likely outcome.

3. Empower your frontline teams to put things right
Give your frontline employees the ability to put things right fast, with the minimum of fuss. Where possible, enable your staff to take the initiative, without always having to refer to a more senior member of staff.

4. Improve customer skills through training and coaching
Ensure that high performance standards are embedded throughout your organisation – including senior management. In particular, your frontline employees should have the required customer service skills– so when even they are under pressure, they can deliver the desired service standards and are comfortable in handling customer complaints effectively.

5. Monitor and improve
Set key performance indicators and monitor these. Where possible, identify pinch-points where frequent problems occur, perhaps due to ineffective systems and processes. And finally ensure that your business rewards and recognises team members that handle difficult complaints effectively.

Handling customer complaints effectively increases customer loyalty – and so it makes good business sense to embed excellent customer service skills throughout your organisation.


*Source: Technical Assistance Research Programmes Inc. summarised in “Service America”, Karl Albrecht and Ron Zemke, Dow Jones-Irwin 1985