Magazine article Management Today

Brain Food: Crash Course in ... Handling Customer Complaints

Magazine article Management Today

Brain Food: Crash Course in ... Handling Customer Complaints

Article excerpt

You've had a letter from a customer complaining that their previous complaints weren't taken seriously. It's made you wonder if there are other unhappy customers out there. So how might you be doing better?

Define a complaint. ISO 10002 calls it: 'An expression of dissatisfaction made to an organisation ... where a response or resolution is explicitly or implicitly expected.' It's a complaint whether it's delivered in writing, by phone, e-mail or any other channel.

Encourage complaints rather than suppress them. As the old adage goes: 'If we're doing something right, tell your friends; if we're doing something wrong, tell us.'

Record it. The reasons for logging complaints are several: you can analyse the cause to identify trends that indicate bigger problems; monitoring the number of complaints gives a measure of your customer service; and a tracking system should ensure that every complaint is resolved or responded to.

Are you listening? Train your people to listen properly. 'Most of the time, customers don't want compensation, they want someone to listen,' says John Hughes, MD of the Customer Service Network. You should instil a culture of listening without prejudice - not deciding complaints are unjustified before they've been properly considered.

Empower your people. Front-line staff should be encouraged to take ownership of the less serious complaints, and empowered to resolve them with refunds, replacements, compensation up to defined limits, or similar measures.

'They need to find out what the customer wants, and then explain what they are able to do,' says Hughes. …

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