Complaints Handling and the Unnecessary Risk of Lost Revenue.

Simon Brennan
Author: Simon Brennan
VP Sales

According to a recent study, only 33% of people are happy with how energy companies handle complaints. Two-thirds of respondents cited areas such as lack of timely resolution and progress updates as reasons for this dissatisfaction (contributing to negative perceptions in a market grappling with rising costs and competitive new entrants). And energy companies aren’t the only ones struggling. The challenge extends across sectors and business types.

According to research, 13% of unhappy customers share their complaint with 15 or more people. And although 67% of customers mention bad experiences as a reason for leaving, only 1 out of 26 unhappy customers actually complain first.

In other words, too many businesses risk losing loyal customers due to inadequate complaints handling procedures – they have higher churn rates and lower lifetime values. However, there are 4 relatively simple processes you can put in place to mitigate these risks and ensure complaints don’t lead to lost loyalty (and revenue).

1. Make it easy for customers to complain

Remember: only 1 in 26 unhappy customers complain before they leave. In the July 2018 UK Customer Satisfaction Index, respondents said that the number one thing organisations should do to improve service is to ‘make it easier to contact the right person to help me.’

A key factor in the decision of whether or not to get in touch first is how easy it will be. No one wants to spend time rooting through a website to find the right phone number or email address. And they don’t want to spend valuable time waiting on hold.

Eliminate friction from this process wherever possible. Make sure it’s easy to get in touch with the right people in your company, and show you actually value customers’ time by having sleek processes and well-trained staff. After all, a positive customer service experience can turn a detractor into a promoter.

2. Identify where complaints come from

When someone does take the time to complain, you need to have the right processes and procedures in place to deal with it.

Often, customer service systems note who is complaining but don’t keep a record of which channels they’re using to lodge those complaints. For example, many businesses log inbound calls and emails because there’s a dedicated customer service number or address. But they don’t have mechanisms for monitoring social media if the person doesn’t mention a dedicated handle.

Once you have a comprehensive monitoring system in place, you can identify ways to streamline responses. For example, people complaining on social media often want fast acknowledgement, and are looking to spur action by publicly naming and shaming. Those using email are often willing to wait longer, so long as they receive an immediate response showing the email has been received. Understanding the expectations you need to live up to will help you dedicate resource in the most effective way.

3. Inform the customer you’re taking action

When agents speak or chat to the customer, It’s important they acknowledge that you will be taking steps to prevent further inconvenience and resolve the issue. After all, your customers value their time and want to know you do, too.

But it’s also crucial that you follow up with written confirmation that you are taking action. One of the most effective methods is using predefined email or SMS templates with personalised fields that pull through customer data from the CRM. This immediate and personalised follow-up shows the customer you aren’t just reacting to their initial complaint, but are actively working towards a resolution. It validates the time they’re spending and the value you place on their business.

4. Measure everything so you know where to improve

Key to success in this area is ensuring that customer service agents have relevant targets and know what’s being measured. That way those on the front line can easily work in accordance with your wider strategy – and ensure you have the data you need to monitor your progress. For example, if agents track complaints in unstructured data (like emails, word processing documents, videos, photos or audio files), then you need to use technology to categorise the data so it’s actionable.

According to a Gartner survey, the most common starting point for company customer experience programmes is improving the collection and analysis of feedback. And this should come as no surprise, because you need data to focus investment on the right improvements.

Complaints handling procedures are a quick win for boosting loyalty

Remember: your customers want to be happy with your service. They invested time and energy choosing you, and want that decision to be the right one. Taking a systematic yet attentive approach to handling complaints will not only boost loyalty – but it will create a reputation that helps attract new customers, too.

Simon Brennan
About the author: Simon Brennan

Simon Brennan has more than 14 years’ experience in the customer engagement sector, working with a wide variety of companies from tech start-ups to FTSE100 organisations. He is an expert in improving corporate customer communication, using technology to supercharge internal processes and deliver increased sales. Simon has a strong track record of successfully delivering cross-channel communication solutions for Engage Hub's corporate customer base, across multiple divisions within an organisation.