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Sunday, 15 April 2018

How Do You Handle Complaints? You Need to Recover in Style!

I posted a blog recently mentioning a problem that I had encountered with a large corporate that I had hired to provide a service to my business. Things have not gone well and I decided to part company while still waiting for completion of a statutory submission.

Having escalated the problem I was called by a Senior Manager who could not have been more helpful and reassuring.

She was rightly concerned at the delays I had experienced and after a long listing of the problems she thanked me for the feedback and assured me that she would take up all the issues and make sure that they don’t happen again.

I am no cynic but how often do we hear on radio and TV that “lessons have been learnt and it won’t happen again”. It has become something of a platitude and it arouses in me a deep sigh and “Oh yes?”  

While these statements are made, I am sure, in all good faith there is a tendency to look at a complaint as an internal problem rather than one that directly affects the customer.

The fact is that while it is nice to hear that our complaint is being taken seriously we really don’t want to know about the investigation, what went wrong, how it can be prevented in the future and,worst of all, who is to blame.

Dropping into blame culture mode is, together with,”it’s company policy”  the worst possible excuses for a problem.

What the customer wants to hear is  how am I personally going to be satisfied in this particular instance.

I really don’t want to know about your problems with people off sick or a computer glitch. I just want to know when MY issue will be solved satisfactorily.

I have known businesses who take complaints so seriously that they are all referred to the CEO. On the other hand there are companies who are never wrong and treat complaints with indifference and disdain.

The bald fact is that complaints are feedback about your performance and need to be taken seriously.

One way, of course, is to have a Customer Service Department, often these days sadly situated in some far off land and staffed by people who are far away from the action and the culture of the business.

It is that detachment that can preclude a personalised answer to a query but rather one dictated by the rules and company policy. There are exceptions I am glad to say with the wonderful Apple in the forefront of all that is good.

The Ritz-Carlton hotel group used to have and probably still has a strap line for all the staff that says: “We are ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen”.

Moreover there is a rule (admirable this time) that anyone in the business approached by a guest with a complaint or query is expected to handle the issue and put it right without the need to refer it upwards.

Complaints are not an internal issue even if they have to be corrected by internal means.  They are an expression of the level of customer satisfaction achieved by the business and hence they are an invaluable denominator of reputation.

It is said that when we have a complaint we tell eighteen people about it whereas when we experience great service we tell only one or two.

A speaker at my Vistage CEO peer group talking about complaints suggested that “we should recover in style”. Doing just that can delight the customer and enhance the reputation. In fact handling a complaint in a way that really sorts out the customer’s problem can build an enhanced level of confidence in our product and service.

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