Recent research suggests that 91% of your customers who feel they have a complaint against the services or goods you have provided, will not make a complaint and simply go elsewhere in future. This means that those who do complain are offering you an invaluable insight into your business, but do you recognise this?

Negative reviews from customers about services or products can help a business make changes that will lead to increased customer satisfaction with existing and future customers, so it’s important to have an internal process to review and solve problems that customers have expressed. A company should evaluate which problems are most significant and need to be rectified first. Then, it should establish a plan to solve problems and assign staff who will implement the changes.

Increasingly companies are recognising the value of a customer complaint in that it is free feedback on their experience, and an opportunity to not only resolve a problem for that particular customer but perhaps also for a much larger number of customers. A quote we often share with our clients on the value of a complaint is:

“A person who complains is our friend: they are paying us a compliment by expressing their confidence in our ability to put things right. We must thank them for giving us that opportunity and ensure that we both solve the problem and offer recompense sufficient to restore their confidence.”

Yet how do you make sure you gather all of the information available from a complaint in order to both solve the individual’s complaint, but also prevent it happening for future customers? Is your system sufficiently flexible to record what the complainant is telling you or does it have to be fitted into one or more tick boxes. How do you maximise the value of that complaint?

Whilst having appropriate systems for recording, analysing and dealing with complaints is essential, the most common barrier to successfully dealing with complaints lies in the defensive culture adopted by department(s) responsible for responding to complaints.

Our clients have recorded a variety of experiences. In one instance a client ordered some urgently required materials and paid significantly more for “guaranteed next day delivery.” When the goods did not arrive, they complained only to be told that although their complaint had been recorded they would have to wait a further 28 days before it could be investigated!

Another complained about the quality of the advice provided by means of a series of telephone conversations with a Local Authority department only to find that the department denied that the conversations had ever taken place.

A client making a written complaint to a high street bank received a three page letter setting out why the bank could not possibly be at fault.

In each instance the customer’s complaint appeared to be brushed off rather than lessons being learned.