A growing understanding of the need to engage actively and sympathetically with customer complaints is enabling high street retailers, including financial institutions, to improve their complaints handling procedures.
This is according to a detailed survey published by Ernst and Young.
The survey of 1,925 consumers, carried out by Ipsos MORI for Ernst and Young, indicates that retailers with knowledgeable, empathetic, professional staff empowered with the ability to solve problems characterise the best complaints handling.
As customers are becoming more assertive about how they want their complaints handled, retailers are also taking the issue more seriously.
In the last 12 months, six out of 10 customers have complained or felt they had cause to complain about a supplier, including financial services, but did not.
A quarter said they believed they had cause to complain in the last year but had chosen not to do so, either because of perceived difficulties in complaining, not feeling their actions would be taken seriously, or because of possible embarrassment.
Allowing for the fact that some customers may have made more than one complaint to more than one company, the research found that:
n 35% of all consumers had complained to a supplier within the last 12 months.
n 29% complained only to a non-financial supplier and 17% solely to a financial one.
n 11% made a complaint to both a financial and a non-financial company.
Philip Middleton, partner at Ernst and Young, said: "Our research shows that those retailers who are best able to resolve customer complaints quickly, satisfactorily and with minimum fuss are more likely to retain that customer than those who don't.
"Customers want to speak to knowledgeable staff who are empowered to handle their complaint and take it seriously."
Almost a third of consumers cited staff inability to resolve a complaint as the key reason they were dissatisfied with the complaints- handling process.
For financial customers, a lack of product knowledge was the second most common irritant, whereas retail consumers were more frustrated by their complaint not being taken seriously.
Quick problem resolution is a key reason for customer satisfaction in both financial and non-financial complaints. However, financial consumers were far more likely to prefer rapid monetary compensation, while for non-financial consumers a quick resolution to the problem was more important. …