Handling Customer Complaints
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Management finds out about customer dissatisfaction through two mechanisms: Voice and Exit.
“Voice” represents complaints … the voice of the customer. “Exit” occurs when the customer stops
buying or using the services. All of us have exited at one time or another, for example, if you’ve
changed your doctor, telephone carrier, or plumber due to poor service.
Service providers employ all sorts of strategies to avoid customer turnover. Smart organizations
know that it is not enough to have the lowest price or the best technology – there always seems to be
a competitor who can do it better or cheaper. There are no guarantees, but one of the best customer
retention strategies is to provide superior customer service. And that means listening to your
How well do you listen and respond to complaints from your customers? We all aim to be customer
focused ... we claim to be customer focused ... but we need to become MORE CUSTOMER
Although listening and responding is necessary, it’s not good enough. Too often, a response is
reactionary and you can easily find yourself reacting over and over again to the same complaint
(sometimes this is called “firefighting”). We need to listen and PROACT. That means listening to the
voice of the customer and making process improvements based on that feedback so that the same
complaints don’t recur.
This is a customer complaint resolution process that anyone can implement:
1 Focus on the Customer
If you can’t immediately solve the problem, respond to the customer and identify an “owner” who
will be responsible for final resolution. Complete the communications loop with customer. If
you’ve referred the complaint to others, make sure there’s closure. If you’ve left the customer
hanging without a response, you’ve become part of the problem.
2 Focus on the Complaint
Collect all complaints from all external customers and categorize them in a way that allows you to
analyze data to see trends, patterns, concentrations, tendencies, etc.
3 Focus on Process Improvement
Use the database of complaints to define processes that are important from the customer’s
perspective and to improve the most critical ones. Based on analysis of the database, make
appropriate investments to prevent issues that result in customer complaints. Look for permanent
improvements to response time, cycle time, internal processes related to the complaints, and