Although the technical aspect of customer complaints may be obvious there may be other matters that increase the significance of the issue for the customer. The secret of effective complaint resolution is recognising the underlying issues and dealing with the whole of the complainants problem.
Perhaps the most difficult issues for complaint processes geared to putting right the technical failing which caused the complaint are those that impacted a third party in some way. Often, these may have caused difficulties or embarrassment for the complainant in their relationship with someone who is important to them or it may have caused them personal embarrassment.
Perhaps the simplest example is where a gift, such as birthday or Valentine’s Day flowers, does not arrive as promised. Although the sender is the party to the contract he is usually more concerned about the spoiling of a loved one’s day. In such circumstances simply refunding the original cost is hardly recompense; that is the bare minimum. For excellence in complaint handling the company has to do something suitable as an apology to the recipient. What form it takes needs to be appropriate to the error and to the occasion that was spoiled. It should be personal to the people concerned. For example, sending a bottle of champagne could add insult to injury if the couple are teetotal for whatever reason. the more personalised the response the better.
To discover what would be appropriate requires someone with good inter-personal skills to explore the underlying issue. That means actually talking to the complainant to properly understand why he is so upset. Then the company’s representative should be proactive in seeking or suggesting solutions while being careful about potential religious, cultural and personal sensitivities. By being considerate and careful the person handling the complaint can do much to defuse potential heat or anger.
Equally it is wise to not go over the top with the response. Most complainants have reasonable expectations, mostly about undoing the hurt, rather than seeking to be exploitative. Overdoing the compensation also sends the wrong message and lack of understanding. That will be the subject of another Thoughts article in the next few days.
As the previous article, Complaints as Opportunity, making good use of the chance to actually talk to customers is key to protecting the brand and sending a positive message to the market. Appropriate complaint’s handing is an expensive way of creating brand champions.