The value of complaints


Complaints ooze emotion


Most companies struggle to really understand what the current customer experience is and how customers really ‘see it’. 

When working in any organisation it is easy to become overly familiar with all the terms and processes. In turn this makes it difficult to think objectively, as any customer would.  For example, how do you simulate what it’s like to arrive at an airport, you’ve never been to before, at 5 a.m., not knowing the language and have been up all night with the children and are physically exhausted?  Or, simulating being diagnosed with cancer, are petrified, and are calling an organisation to arrange treatment.  Understanding the customers’ frame of mind in these situations is fundamental to how you resolve it.  But, you need to get as near to it as you can.

Personalisation is key

Customer surveys and insight help build this picture but it is easy for them to become a set of statistical analyses or a series of successive pie-charts.  Whilst useful, this doesn’t really express how the organisation made the customer feel; how it mattered to them, personally.  As most organisations now accept that it is personalisation that is the key to customer recommendation and loyalty this is crucial to get right.

Understanding complaints

One way to bring this to life is through a detailed understanding of complaints from customers.  In most countries customers find it difficult to be honest about what the experience was really like; what really happened.  With complaints this is not the case.  Usually the customer has had enough and jettisons reticence in favour of a no-holes-barred candid account of what the experience was really like and, importantly, how it made them feel.  Often the experience is over many months and involves tens of interactions.  The jewel is that customers also have a desire to help the organisation change and learn from the mistake - usually a key feedback from complainants research.

Whilst complaints are an extreme, they nevertheless illustrate problems that happen elsewhere that aren’t as severe; why a ‘quite good’ isn’t a ‘very good’.  If you want to improve customer engagement and recommendation they are the place to start.  

What do you need to do?

Firstly, you’ll need to spend the time putting together an analysis of what really happened.  If you get that bit right then the full reality of the experience will become clear.  The facts will then speak for themselves.  When analysing the information you’ll make an emotional connection with the customer - reading the letters, listening to the calls, how the organisation recorded the interactions on the systems etc. This affects the management team as they will often feel personally upset from what has happened.  It is this emotional connection that makes managers want to do something about it.  

At the end of the sessions it is really clear what actions need to be taken. Ideally, a Director will then call the customer to tell them that their case has been reviewed.  The customer will be blown away; how often does someone get a call like that?