Managing customer complaints is a vital, internal process influencing customer perceptions and the attitudes of your staff. Pay attention to complaints and you can improve customer satisfaction for the better.

Is your “complaint management system” up-to-date? Use this checklist to review your current approach and, if needed, make it better to improve customer satisfaction.

1. Focus on the complaint

Read the complaint with an open and appreciative mind. Complaints are an opportunity to fix problems and prevent them from re-occurring to improve customer satisfaction.

Identify the “value dimension” your customer is complaining about. A value dimension is that aspect of the service interaction your customer truly values, but which has been under-delivered or unfulfilled.

Value dimensions are always positive, often the opposite of your customer’s complaint. For example, if they complain about slow response, the value dimension is speed.

If they complain about rude staff, the value dimension is respect, courtesy and staff attitude.

2. Focus on the company

Connect with those inside your organization who can make improvements in the identified value dimensions. This may be people responsible for procedures, staff development, etc.

Study the complaint with your team and determine what should be changed or improved to prevent repetition.

Confirm who will make the changes required to improve customer satisfaction. Be clear about who will do what and by when.

Track customer complaints in this value dimension over time.

3. Focus on the customer

Assess the impact of this problem on your customer. Has your customer been severely pained or is the impact minor? Is your customer cool, or hot and ready to explode?

Plan the actions needed to set things right for this customer. Express empathy and apologize. Give an explanation of what will be improved inside the company. Prepare specific positive actions. Include a generous gesture of goodwill to demonstrate your appreciation and improve customer satisfaction.

Then contact the customer by phone, e-mail, letter or in person. Make them feel right by agreeing on the importance of the value dimension they hold so dear. Tell them how committed you are to improving this dimension of your service and to reclaiming their full satisfaction.

Explain the specific actions you plan to take on their behalf to improve customer satisfaction. Confirm whether these will be sufficient to restore your customer’s confidence and trust.

After you have taken the actions, follow-through to be sure your customer is satisfied and intends to patronize you again.

Key Learning Points

Most people with a complaint won’t even tell you about it. Instead, they’ll walk away and tell other people: your customers, prospects and competitors – sometimes government agencies and the press!

Customers who do complain are actually your best friends, your free consultants, your valued business partners. They give you the information you need to improve customer satisfaction. Be sure you treat them that way to improve customer satisfaction.

Action Steps

Review, revise and reinforce your complaints management policy and procedures. Make sure every upset customer becomes a happy customer.

Manage positive comments, too! When you receive a customer compliment, send an appreciative and informative reply. Turn your happy customers into bona fide ambassadors: eager to return, willing to stay in touch, ready to promote you with positive word-of-mouth.

News Reporter