Even with the best intentions, every business will fail to meet customer expectations at some point. The manner in which the customer complaint is handled is critical on these occasions. Get it right and reputations can be redeemed, get it wrong and the problem can rapidly escalate.
In my Complaints Handling Training I emphasise the importance of these five steps:
Any member of an organisation can receive a complaint, so it is important that everyone receives complaint handling training. A clear understanding of what to do, and how to do it, will ensure that all employees are sufficiently equipped to turn the situation around.
Beyond upholding the reputation of your company, clear policies benefit employees. Job satisfaction can be gained from resolving a difficult situation with confidence; it is certainly preferable to being at the receiving end of frustrated customers who become ever more irate.
Complaint Handling Awards 2018
On Thursday 22 February, I was one of a panel of judges at the Complaint Handling Awards 2018. The shortlisted entrants were given the opportunity to showcase the strategies they were employing to reduce complaints and improve customer relations. Our panel was judging ‘Proactive Complaint Handling in the Utility Industry’.
The utilities industry is governed by OfWat, an organisation designed to build customer confidence in water and waste water services. If a customer complains the utility company is fined by OfWat. If the complaint isn’t resolved within 10 days, the fine increases. It is therefore in the interest of all utility companies to invest in effective customer services.
As a judge, I was keen to see initiatives which stretched beyond the regulatory requirements. I wanted to understand the measures that each company had put into place to enhance the five steps listed above.
The judges unanimously agreed that United Utilities would receive the Proactive Complaints Handling Award. Their initiatives seemed firmly imbedded in the culture of the company, with all employees taking on responsibility for customer service.
What we can learn from the Award Winners?
No matter which industry you operate, we can all learn from some of the complaint handling strategies that United Utilities have implemented.
Embed Customer Service in the Company Culture
When it came to addressing the issue of customer complaints, all United Utilities’ employees were involved in initial thoughts, development and implementation. Weekly briefings continue the process, with feedback and fresh ideas being shared across the team.
Do all of your team receive customer service training?
United Utilities had established ways to have an active presence within the communities they served. They regularly set up stands in local town centres and have a manned company bus on hand when burst pipes, or other issues, affect their service. Being approachable and providing information in person helps to eliminate concerns and complaints.
How do you make your company approachable?
Give Employees Autonomy
Isn’t it frustrating when you make a complaint and the individual needs to get a supervisor to resolve the problem? It’s better to have a clear policy on the actions that can be taken; replacements, refunds and goodwill gestures, then trust your team to use them as appropriate.
United Utilities gave responsibility to their staff to make decisions within set guidelines, do you?
Complaint Handling Training
All of the companies that we judged had been driven to take action because their performance had at one point been sub-standard. Customers were dissatisfied, they had a low rank in industry league tables, employee motivation was rock bottom and the reputation of the company was poor. That’s not to mention the cost implications of OfWat fines. They took action, initiated change and have reaped the rewards.
If your company is receiving more complaints that you are happy with, if the standards of service aren’t consistent and your reputation has taken a battering, get in touch: firstname.lastname@example.org
My in-house Complaint Handling Training will provide practical steps to help turn things around. You can regain good customer relations and could even find your team shortlisted for a Customer Service Award!