Customer complaints can be viewed as valuable insight. The comments provide an opportunity for us to view our business from a different perspective. They shine a light on areas which we may have overlooked and can inform decisions on where best to invest time and money.
Whilst they can be useful, no business enjoys receiving customer complaints. If you care about what you do, it is disappointing to feel that you have failed to meet expectations. Root cause analysis can help turn things around.
Using Root Cause Analysis to Enhance Customer Service
If your company has spotted a pattern or is aware of an increase in the number of customer complaints, I would recommend undertaking root cause analysis. This technique helps to identify what lies at the heart of the problem. You can then be proactive and deal with the cause, rather than patching up the symptoms.
Root cause analysis can be applied to any business issue, including workplace conflict, health and safety, recruitment or finance. It is a useful tool for improving customer service and the process is simple – just ask “Why?”
Root Cause Analysis in Action
The ‘5 Whys Technique’ is a well-known application of root cause analysis. It involves multi-step questioning, which I will illustrate in the example below.
THE ISSUE: We’ve seen a growing number of complaints about late deliveries. This has increased the volume of calls having to be taken by the Office Administrator. We are having to offer refunds or discounts on the next order, which is cutting into profits.
Why? - 25% of packages are not picked, packed and ready in time for the courier collection
Why? - Orders are not being shared with the fulfilment team in time to turn them around
Why? - The Administrator was asked to wait until all orders are received by the 2.00pm deadline before forwarding to the warehouse
Why? - In order to avoid duplication errors and improve efficiency (it would also be a challenge to get it processed sooner, due to the increased volume of calls about late deliveries!)
THE SOLUTION: With a greater understanding of the problem, the management team could now make a number of decisions. These could include:
People, Process or Policy
Root cause analysis will expose that the issue lies with the people in your team, the process or the policy (or lack of). Rather than apportioning blame, it aims to clarify what can change.
In the example above, the process needed addressing. If you find people are at the heart of the issue, training could be the solution. Training can increase competence in technology or might focus on developing customer service skills.
The solution need not be costly, but when implemented changes can result in an almost immediate improvement. It can improve customer service and boost team morale. Preventing a loss of reputation and profits are other clear advantages.
Every business has its challenges, so why not apply the ‘5 Whys Technique’ to a current issue and see whether you can identify and address the root cause?