Complaints are a gift to your business – use them wisely | Blue Sky

Complaints are a gift to your business – use them wisely

Customers are Changing

Customer expectations across every aspect of service experience are changing.  

In our world of instant access, we want an answer as quickly as it takes for us to tap our thoughts into any social media channel. Recent research* shows that the number of us who are complaining is rising and the corporate world is not quite in the same space in terms of instant replying – regulation, internal mechanisms and lack of permission around front-line decision making means we’re setting ourselves up to fail – we can’t meet customer response expectations.

Within regulated environments like Financial Services straightforward complaint resolution is not always simple or possible – complex complaints are ever present – what’s required is empathy, understanding and a focus on doing what is right for that customer in the circumstances presented.

Now, no business wants to get a complaint, or do we? Whilst we all recognise that sometimes things go wrong, what many of us overlook is that every complaint tells a story about what we’re doing or how we’re doing it. It becomes a rich source of information and an opportunity to look at how we can make things better for all future customers.

There are 4 simple pieces of advice I would like to offer –

  • Resolve at source help your front-line staff be amazing at heading off complaints. If you want to turn around the complaint experience and retain your customers, empower your people to make the right decision for your customers. Engage with the customer to fully understand, and identify what would make it right. This simple act of trying to do the right thing will make that customer feel you are on their side.
  • Be human the moment your people allow a process to get in the way of doing the right thing, the experience will feel impersonal. We all judge things by how they make us ‘feel ‘ so ensuring you’re connecting on a human level with customers in every channel and helping them feel you’re acting on their behalf is a massive driver in building loyalty.
  • Manage the Gap – between their perception of the experience, and the experience actually delivered. Every customer will have an expectation when they contact you – an outcome that they expect –managing those expectations is particularly important in the case of long-term complaints. Set clear timescales at outset – and then manage the experience through personalised contact and updates. Six weeks may be a long time, but if your customer knows you are all over it and, on their side, they will ‘feel’ better about the experience.
  • Seek & encourage feedback – from your front-line people. This is crucial, they are best placed as they talk to customers every day. By putting mechanisms in place to capture what they’re talking to customers about means the business can tackle emerging complaint trends and prevent them from becoming systematic glitches that come up over and over again.

Measuring Complaints – is NPS the right measure?

It is not uncommon for organisations to use NPS as a way of measuring these complaints. This is not surprising, over the last few years NPS has become increasingly prevalent as the measure of choice, with companies being ranked in independent surveys based upon their NPS score.

However, NPS is a brand indicator. It is influenced by a variety of factors, for example, customer experience, product, pricing, brand awareness, advertising, media reports, reputation. It was never intended as a measure of an ‘in the moment’ customer experience. As such, NPS is a good predictor of customer advocacy, and serves as an indicator to the business of continued loyalty and therefore a potential for revenue growth.

But is it the right measure for complaints?

I do not believe so.

The primary purpose of a Complaints area is not necessarily to build advocacy with the by-product of increased revenue and profit growth. Its primary purpose is to:

  1. Protect the organisational brand against dissatisfaction (especially as a dissatisfied customer is likely to tell many others – oh how we love to moan!)
  2. Retain the customer (as the cost of acquiring new customers is more than retaining existing ones)
  3. Create advocates for the future (and considering that within financial services some of these complaint journeys can take many months; this is a longer-term objective)

Therefore, the primary and immediate purpose is to minimise the damage created by a dissatisfied customer (which NPS does not measure).

I would suggest the following:

Firstly, Using a basket of measures to create a broader picture of understanding around the customer experience of which NPS may be one, but include additional customer experience measures (for example, CSAT or Net Easy**) as well as internal measures that focus on the quality of the behaviours of the individual adviser/agent. Ensure these behaviours are the right behaviours that drive the quality of the customer experience.

Secondly, Create an opportunity to further understand the complaint – adding the question “Can we call you back?” is a great way of creating an opportunity to really understand what you did well or less well. If handled correctly it also shows that you care about what the customer thinks regardless of the outcome.


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*source: UKCSI July 2017  Banks & Building Societies Sector Report

**source –

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