Customer complaints can be good for your business. Here’s how: A customer who takes the time and trouble to complain to you, instead of simply withdrawing her business and complaining to all her friends, is offering you a rare opportunity.
Customer complaints give you the chance to fix problems in your business, prevent new problems from arising, improve your products and services – and, if you do it right, to turn an unhappy customer into a loyal one.
It should be common sense – but from our experience, most large South African companies don’t even have clear procedures in place for handling complaints. Several weeks ago, for example, we contacted all the major banks asking for their complaints procedures; we’re still waiting for a response. As far as successful complaints handling goes, they’re not even getting out of the starting blocks.
The most important change needed here is one of attitude: instead of thinking about the cost of creating happy customers, we need to consider the value of doing so. Only when complaints handling is acknowledged as an activity that builds value in the business will it get the attention it deserves.
A good complaints handling process – which should of course be written down and clearly communicated to everyone in the organisation – starts with letting your customers know, clearly and often, where to go when they have a problem. Don’t just accept complaints, let customers know that you welcome and encourage them. Designate a ShareCall number, offer an SMS response service and put this information where people can see it -- on till slips, on posters, on packaging and on advertising material.
The next step is a clear system for recording and filing complaints. This should ensure that top management, as well as the marketing department and any relevant outside organisations like regulatory agencies, get regular updates on complaint trends. This is where good case management software, like Global360’s Case Manager, comes into its own.
Then, when actually recording and processing complaints, you need to ensure that each case is assigned to a single person who is actually empowered to solve it – or can send it quickly to the next level of authority if not.
Very importantly, every complaint needs to be rapidly acknowledged – ideally by a personal email or phone call within 24 hours. Don’t send a form letter – and do take the trouble to communicate with your customer in her own language wherever possible.
Every complaint that can’t be resolved immediately should be quickly and fairly investigated, again with clear records kept of all communications, meetings and findings. Keep the customer informed with regular progress reports, and when you have a proposed solution notify them promptly.
Don’t let matters rest
Don’t let matters rest there. Make sure your customer is happy with the way you’ve resolved the complaint – and if not, have a system in place for referring the case for third party dispute resolution.
Finally, mine your complaints records for the gold they contain. Investigate the trends, identify things your business could be doing better, or innovations it could make, and consider the customer perspective in company decision making.
Get all these things right and you have a powerful tool for building customer loyalty and gathering priceless intelligence about what your customers want and need.
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