I love complaints….
I Love Complaints….well, not the root cause of the complaint but the fact that the customer has taken the time to tell us about a complaint.
A complaint is a fantastic piece of feedback because it comes directly from a customer who has a grievance about something we have done poorly or not done at all.
I think it is fair to say that we all have a tingle of disappointment when we receive a complaint. This is usually because something has gone wrong in our area of responsibility. So much is the disappointment or anger in some cases, that I have seen managers throw complaints in the bin or even call back complainants to “put them in their place” Fortunately, this is in the minority.
I certainly feel that complaints can be one of the most valuable business advisor that you can have. They provide you with a view from the customer, a reality check on the services that you think you are providing.
Furthermore, receiving a complaint should provide us with the opportunity to review the reasons behind the complaint, learn some lessons and avoid the same thing from occurring again.
So, how do we handle complaints and how can we learn from them?
Embrace that Complaint
Before you get too cuddly with the complaint, determine whether the complaint is genuine. Does it sound like they had a genuine issue with the service they received or does it sound like they are just complaining for another reason? If you know your teams and how they provide the services, you will be able to quickly determine whether this feels genuine or not.
If it feels like a genuine complaint, work out what went wrong and how it can be put right for this customer but in the long term, all customers.
You should also formally log the complaint and it’s details in a central place accessible to all. This will help see the number of complaints you receive, determine how you resolved them and learn how to avoid them in the future.
Reach out to your customer and staff
Share your complaint with your team and work together to identify the cause and fix for the problem. The team will feel involved and much more motivated to ensure this does not occur again. There’s no point beating them up over it….we’ll not yet anyway!
Then reach out to your customer to thank them for bringing this issue to your attention and outline the actions taken to fix the problem and ensure it doesn’t occur again.
You will then need to update your complaints log with the action taken and what lessons you have learnt.
Learn those Lessons as a team
The lessons learnt section of your complaints log should be available to all staff and part of your training programme. It is all very well, learning the mistakes that were made and even the actions taken to resolve them but processes change, bad habits creep back in, staff changes and before you know it the same old problems are back again.
Refer all your team members for new and long standing one, just how important the complaints log lessons learnt section can be in helping them understand what happened, how the problem occurred, how you fixed it and most importantly what to do so it doesn’t happen again. For new team members this can be included at their induction and existing members as part of the team meetings where new lessons learnt can be highlighted.
Remember that customers don’t always tell you something’s wrong!
Whilst I’m keen to hear complaints, I think it is in our nature generally not to complain to the source of the problem but to tell those close to us. For instance, how often do we have a bad meal in a restaurant but choose not to tell the waiter when he asks? We would rather leave quietly with the minimum of fuss and a view of not ever returning again; finding out if the restaurant was having an off night; or even giving them the chance to put right something they weren’t aware of.
We should therefore be grateful of the complaint as it took some effort to let you know and gives you a chance to improve.
Finally, customers may not always tell you they have a problem and instead choose to vote with their feet, you will therefore have to continue to work hard on the services you provide to ensure that you reduce the opportunity for dissatisfaction, and find ways of pro-actively engaging with your customers to genuinely seek their feedback on how you can improve so they can see you are committed to great service.