Omar Rashid, general manager, British Standards Institution Group (BSI), Middle East WLL, Qatar discusses the effective ways in which to handle those difficult customer complaints and minimising consumer problems
As customers increasingly use self-service to purchase products, apply for services and manage account details, the only human interaction with a company is often when something has gone wrong. As a result, customers will often rate an organisation on how well they have dealt with complaints. With access to a wealth of information, customers are often well informed about their rights, including their right to complain when things go wrong, and the impact of satisfying the complaining customer can prove to be incredibly positive for businesses. Companies that are bad at handling complaints, especially with the advent of social media, risk reputational damage and a loss of customers. Over the past few years regulated industries, including utilities, have also seen record fines for poor complaints handling.
Prevent complaints or minimise problems caused
What should companies do when tackling complaints? Invest time and resources on designing strategies to prevent complaints or focus on preventing problems for customers whilst also maximising customer satisfaction? The problem with many complaint prevention strategies is that they too often focus upon the wrong thing. To name a few a companies may:
- Restrict the channels that allow customers to contact them
- Limit their definition of a complaint
- Implement cumbersome, bureaucratic procedures for customers to follow (and get lost in the exhaustive paper trail)
- Ensure staff see complaints as a negative, so that they do all they can to not record complaints
- Blame staff that cause complaints
- Blame customers for having unrealistic expectations
Building consumer trust
Poorly designed products, processes and systems can and will cause problems and may cause affected customers to complain. Poor communication, misleading advertising, unfair treatment will also cause problems, as will poorly trained, overworked and demotivated staff members.
But these problems don’t always cause customers to find fault. If the problem has a significant impact upon a customer, they are likely to complain. However, if the problem has a minimal impact upon them they may not be too concerned to go through the time and effort of reporting a problem. However, another factor that must not be overlooked is trust.
If a customer trusts a company and knows that they are ready to listen and rectify the issue for them, then they are more likely to let them know when something has gone wrong and will work towards finding a mutually agreeable resolution.
Discovering the problem
The goal of effective complaints handling should not be to prevent complaints from occurring but to minimise the number of problems experienced by customers and minimise escalations.
Formal and official complaint procedures tend to result in many expressions of dissatisfaction being left unrecorded and invisible to a company. They also struggle to effectively deal with the growing number of negative comments that are scattered across social media platforms, but companies that implement strategies which identify and address dissatisfaction as soon as it is raised find that not only does this have a greater impact in increasing satisfaction and customer advocacy, but provides some of the best learning opportunities.
Top tips on how to manage customer complaints more effectively with the help of ISO 10002:
- Get commitment and support from senior management
- Engage the whole business with good internal communication
- Compare existing management processes with ISO 10002 requirements
- Get customer feedback on current complaints management
- Establish an implementation team to get the best results
- Map out and share roles responsibilities and timescales
- Adapt the principles of ISO 10002 management systems to your business
- Motivate staff involvement with training and incentives
- Train staff to understand and use the ISO 10002 system