Embracing customer complaints: How to be a customer service leader

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Embracing customer complaints: How to be a customer service leader
I want to talk to the manager.

Customer complaints are a part of business, but recently, we’ve seen an increase in customer complaints.

A recent survey found 66 per cent of consumers had experienced a problem with a product or service in 2020.

This is partly because we’re shopping online more, with Australia Post finding in 2020, nine million households used ecommerce, or around 82 per cent of the population. And even as lockdowns ease, consumer preference has changed, as we’ve embraced the online world. The same Australia Post report found five million households are shopping online each month during the early months of 2021.

The volume of online shopping means businesses have adopted different techniques to deal with complaints and feedback – everything from email routing to intelligent chatbots and, of course, customer service teams using humans. But there are limits to what an individual can do, which is why it’s important to get the complaints process right. After all, people who have a negative experience tell an average of seven people, while satisfied ones only tell about four people of their positive experience.

With this in mind, what can you do to make sure your customers’ complaints are quickly and smoothly resolved in a way that leads them to become brand advocates?

Proactive Resolution

To begin with, organisations need to use technology to avoid service issues from being escalated into a complaint, let alone a complaint that gets escalated to the Ombudsman, which can cost organisations over a million dollars. This can be done by utilising customer decisioning to recognise issues proactively and recommend the most appropriate resolution based on measures such as Customer Lifetime Value and propensity to respond to a certain resolution like a discount or loyalty points. To get this right, organisations need fundamental capabilities such as being able to operationalise data on an individual customer basis, ability to feed trigger events into an engagement strategy, arbitration to prioritise service vs sales outcomes, cross-channel orchestration across inbound, outbound and paid channels, and adaptive learning which feeds cross-channel insights to improve issue resolution.

Getting the complaints process right

However, proactive resolution is not always possible and complaints are inevitable—it’s important organisations deal with them effectively. The first step is to make sure your complaints process is consistent across all touchpoints. It doesn’t matter if the customer contacts you via a chatbot, social media, or a call centre, they need to experience the same process. Sometimes a complaint is complex, and requires extra intervention, and your process must be able to handle this complexity.

It’s not just your customers who will complain, either. Maybe someone isn’t your customer but doesn’t like a social post or a TV ad and they want to let you know about it. Your processes should be the same, regardless of who is making the complaint.

Setting a timeframe for complaints resolution is also critical. This way the customer leaves satisfied, and you avoid negative repercussions for your brand image from people telling their friends it took too long for you to help them. A comprehensive complaints process provides automated escalations to progress to a resolution within a given period.

If you’re not getting your complaints addressed quickly, it’s possible you will end up with both a backlog and duplicate complaints, and your systems should be able to recognise those duplicates. It could be that a customer has made a complaint via social media, and then through the call centre or a chatbot. Recognise those duplicates, and you’re on your way to a satisfied customer.

You need to provide flexibility for customers to lodge complaints using any method they like—social, chatbot, call centre or perhaps email. However, letting your customers use any channel means you must proactively recognise the customer’s context and previous interactions to avoid duplication and prioritise resolution as opposed to a cross-sell or nurture message.

You should also provide timely notifications to the customer, so they know their complaint is in progress, as well as have the ability to reopen a complaint if it wasn’t resolved the first time around.

Finally, make sure the complaint is routed to the right person or team. Complaints which are lost or end up being sent to the wrong place mean customers are going to get antsy, leading to dissatisfaction and the likelihood they will tell their friends and family.

The goal here it to make sure customers can complain (because as we’ve seen, they’re going to) and to ensure their complaints are resolved in a timely and satisfactory way. Doing that has the potential to turn a complainant into your biggest advocate and an ambassador for your brand.

Gabriela Darley is 1:1 Customer Engagement Account Executive at Pegasystems.

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