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Complaints. All of our companies receive them. We have all at some point made one ourselves. If you caught a glimpse of the recent Channel 4 TV series called ‘The Complainers’ recently, you will have seen that there are a group of people who positively thrive in actively looking for ways to make complaints about every company they interact with. Whilst this group of ‘super complainers’ are a very bad reflection of both your customer base and the way to get positive resolution to a genuine problem, the experiences we saw on the small screen did give exposure to a very important aspect of any customer journey.

I collaborate with many people in the work I do. One of the specialists I am very pleased to know is a lady called Helen Dewdney. Helen specialises in the field of complaints – on both sides of the coin. If you are a consumer who has had a problem with a company and need to know what to do – Helen is the person to get advice from. If your company wants to know how best to address complaints, Helen is equally able to guide and advise. I am delighted that Helen agreed to share her thoughts on complaints in this guest post – she believes that rather than eliminating them altogether, companies should use complaints to their advantage. Read on to find out why…..

Helen Dewdney

Helen Dewdney

So, I complain. A lot. No, not one of those extreme complainers with no life, or rude people who continually shout at poor call centre folk or who go looking for complaints and sees everything that goes wrong as an opportunity, I simply complain where I am legally entitled to do so and/or feel wronged. What never ceases to amaze me is the varying ways that companies deal with complaints.
Let me provide you with an example. On my blog I write about complaints. Take DunElm. I complained about there not being cream teas available at 1.30pm and that the member of staff didn’t know how to issue refunds. Now, I wrote to the manager who apologised and sent me a voucher. But what did the manager do with that information? He found out that stock hadn’t been ordered when it should have been. It formed part of a case for someone getting sacked. He put in training for other staff. The result of that complaint meant that the manager had identified a training issue which ensured that the issue wouldn’t arise again. This feedback then ensured loyalty and increased profits as two areas of the operation were addressed, improving service as well as preventing the problem happening again.
Compare this then with all my dealings with Tesco. Sometimes, if one is lucky, emails get passed to the executive office when one writes to the CEO. Last year my complaints regarding not getting a refund on vouchers landed them in court and I won. Did they learn any lessons? Nope. The whole case was due to poor communication, one department not talking to another and not following up emails, it was then compounded with lack of empowering other staff in social media. The issues remain. It is a big company and if you look over the Internet and even at the comments on my blog alone, there are many people complaining about Tesco. Obviously, a bigger company will have more mistakes made by law of averages. But, look deeper and you will see it is the same complaints about the same processes. I don’t believe that complaints are evaluated. They may be logged, they may be all over the Internet but does Tesco actually USE the information to improve service? Nope. Tesco focuses on prices, but as competition increases shouldn’t it be looking further? What do I know I’m just a customer? I’ll still shop there. Wrong.
Put Tesco complaint into a Google search. First page all the contact details as you would expect but my post is above the contact phone numbers! Had they dealt with the complaint satisfactorily then it wouldn’t be there on the first page of Google or if it was it could have been about how well the complaint was dealt with. I did it for Sainsbury’s. But with the Tesco complaint comes comment after comment about similar experiences. You can’t afford not to use complaints.
To me, it is not rocket science. Quite simply, if a complaint appears genuine a company should not only look at how they resolve the matter for a customer to their satisfaction, but at how they can use that information. So how should companies gain useful complaints and use them?
Here’s a strange thought. Why don’t companies ask the customers what they think of their service? I don’t mean by the usual feedback forms, “Fill this out and enter a prize draw”, “please tell us about your experience today” that gives such limited information. People are rushing it and don’t care what they are putting in half the time. If they have a real gripe they aren’t going to put it in a feedback form they are going to write to customer service… or worse… just walk away and not use your service again. And there you have it, the company has lost a customer without knowing about it. It doesn’t know what it doesn’t know.
So, when asking about their service, companies could really get ahead of their competitors simply by asking customers what is wrong with their own. Sound risky? Not want to know? Not doing it is, short sighted is what it is. Asking customers what is wrong, (once they have been made to feel comfortable and safe and thanked for their contribution) they’ll start to open up. Ask people who have complained in the last six months to come to a workshop. Grab all that negativity. Then take it, work with it, don’t excuse it, don’t dismiss it, use it and improve the service. Then, not only will the company be improving their service it will have done something innovative and a bit different. The opportunities from a PR point of view alone are huge.

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Helen Dewdney writes the blog The Complaining Cow regarding how to make, prevent and deal with complaints effectively and positively. She appears on BBC Breakfast, Radio 5 and local radio regarding how to complain effectively and how companies can improve their customer experience.

Website: www.thecomplainingcow.co.uk

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