How to Resolve Complaints for Competitive Advantage


How to Resolve Complaints for Competitive Advantage

By Special Guest
Simon Hunt, director of customer experience at Firstsource
  |  June 17, 2016

As e-commerce thrives and social media interaction has become the norm, businesses have been forced to dramatically change the way they interact with customers. The demand for speed, transparency, and convenience has never been more apparent, and companies have to deal with a higher level of customer complaints, making it an unavoidable part of business.

Consumers are increasingly turning to social media to communicate with brands, voicing their complaints at lightning speed. How companies handle these complaints often determines how successful their businesses will be in the long- term. Poorly handled complaints can turn customers off a brand for life. Global research by Accenture found that two thirds of customers have switched providers due to poor customer service. On the other hand, complaints handled well can lead to increased customer loyalty and brand affiliation.

Decoding customer complaints has become an essential part of day-to-day business operations. With business success or failure on the line, what do you need to do to ensure that a customer has a positive experience with you brand?  

Empathize with your customer.

Most customers prefer to limit the amount of interaction they have with a company when it relates to a specific complaint. They want resolution to be fast and efficient with a minimal amount of touchpoints. The path to resolution needs to be obstacle free.

Despite many businesses moving to digital customer management models, 65 percent of consumer contact still happens over the phone and 15 percent over email. The latter is growing in popularity; in a world increasingly dominated by informal social media channels, customers still rely on the formality of email when making complaints.

Understanding who your customers are and why they make contact is vital. The most effective way to handle and resolve complaints is to use an omnichannel approach that supports the many different ways customers get in touch and receive resolution updates.

Fully understand the impact of social media.

Social media is the go-to channel for many disgruntled customers to vent anger and disappointment. According to recent research from Convince & Convert, 42 percent of consumers complaining over social media expect a response within 60 minutes. Adding to this, there are no boundaries on time of day, with more than 57 percent expecting the same response time at night and on weekends as during regular business hours.

With minimal room for error, companies must have watertight processes in place to address complaints in a way that eliminates the risk of them reaching a wider audience on social media before finding a resolution. While companies cannot control what customers post about them online, they can control how they monitor sentiment, track recurring themes, and address issues rather than letting them linger in the social stratosphere.

Your brand is your badge.

The type of experience customers have when making a complaint can have a profound impact on their perceptions of a brand and how they engage with it in the future. Contact center agents are on the frontline when it comes to dealing with customer complaints and play an important role in presenting your brand consistently, authentically, and appropriately.

The way complaints are handled is a direct reflection on company brand and values. Agents must avoid focusing too narrowly on average handling times and process and instead be empowered with more flexibility to determine solutions. How customer service agents communicate that solution will in turn help you protect, and even enhance, your brand. 


Motivated agents are the catalyst for customer satisfaction.

Even with advanced technology, complaint handling is still an area where person-to-person interaction tends to be more effective.

In customer experience research, Dr. Daniel Kahneman explores the peak end rule, a concept that states that the way in which we remember an experience is largely defined by how good or bad it was at its best or worst and how it ends. In the case of complaints, if the interaction ends with the complaint being resolved, as long as the experience wasn’t too painful, a customer will often remember the experience positively. This cannot, however, negate damage done by a customer telling wider audiences about the complaint while you are resolving it.

Happy, skilled, and motivated agents are one of the best guarantees of satisfied customers. Businesses need to ensure their customer service agents are engaged, rewarded, and have access to opportunities to build their skills and develop their careers. Creating a culture where customer representatives can thrive gives companies the greatest chance of delivering premium customer experiences.

How to build brand ambassadors.

In the battle of the brands, great customer experience can make all the difference. When it comes to complaints, the stakes are even higher. Effective resolution can turn a disgruntled consumer into a brand advocate. Furthermore, complaints can offer opportunities for collecting feedback about your business that can be leveraged for competitive advantage. By taking this approach and applying everything that your customers love about your brand to how you handle your resolution procedures, you too can successfully decode customer complaints.

Edited by Maurice Nagle
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