Keep Those Complaints Coming

Discussion
Mar 10, 2006
George Anderson

By George Anderson


It’s the complaints you never hear that will kill your business. According to a study from Customer Champions out of the U.K., most consumers on the other side of the Atlantic will not even let companies know about their unhappiness because they believe the resolution, if any occurs, will not be satisfactory nor worth their time and effort.


One of the major obstacles to resolving customer unhappiness is the consumer perception that companies make it difficult to complain in the first place.


Businesses typically handle complaints as part of financial dealings concerning purchase refunds or exchanges, for example, but, according to Customer Champions’ research, consumers are most interested in knowing that they have been heard.


Another factor determining consumer happiness with complaint resolutions comes down to speed. Many businesses never become aware of problems because unhappy customers cannot be bothered taking the time to go through the complaint process.


Colin Bates, managing director for Customer Champions, told TheWiseMarketer.com, “This finding has been borne out through our client-specific work, where the speed of resolution has had a major impact upon satisfying customers and minimizing long-term financial effects, such as boycotting.”


Boycotting, particularly the kind that stores are unaware of, is a serious issue. According to Customer Champions, men who are unhappy with how their complaints are addressed are likely to stay away from a business for an average of 10 years. Women tend to be more forgiving, with the average boycott of a business lasting five years.


Moderator’s Comment: What are your do’s and don’ts for encouraging consumers to provide retailers with feedback and
for resolving complaints? What retailers do the best job of turning consumer complaints into business opportunities for themselves?

George Anderson – Moderator

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.

Join the Discussion!

17 Comments on "Keep Those Complaints Coming"


Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
Stephan Kouzomis
Guest
Stephan Kouzomis
14 years 11 months ago

Well trained personnel and knowledgeable sales associates are critical pieces to turning shoppers’ disenchantment around. In the food industry, on both sides – grocery and foodservice – shortage of good help is to be noted; but doesn’t compensate for the “all words, and no action” that complaining shoppers receive.

Sure, there are exceptions, like Publix, Ukrop’s, Wegmans and Nugget. Trying to create solutions, and positive action(s) to shopper complaints, is a ‘mindset’ that needs to be encouraged from the top down. And not just, at the store level.

In the long term, spending on educating the store personnel, and having a positive and ongoing program targeted to shopper issues, are credited to the ‘culture’ established in valuing and keeping the almighty consumer….whether corporation.

AND this means spending in these areas…..which will pay out mega-fold. We all relate to losing a shopper and/or key customer/supplier and how much time and energy it takes to ATTEMPT to bring either one back. Hmmmmmmmm

Bernie Slome
Guest
Bernie Slome
14 years 11 months ago
Did you ever notice that the retailers who offer the best customer service are also the retailers that have the best sales and profit results? They are also the retailers, in the customer’s perception, that satisfactorily address customer’s complaints. And, they are also the retailers that invest in training, measure the results of the training, act upon the results AND have top management actively involved in the program. Some of the programs that we have created and implemented with some of the nation’s largest retailers begin with listening to our client’s customer. It continues with training of company personnel, then various measurement devices such as IVR surveys, web surveys, comment cards, customer feedback intercepts and mystery shopping. The reports are given to management, usually real-time via a secure web site, in whatever style and format that management needs. The retailer also needs to publicize the fact that there is a dedication to customer service and that there are programs in place to improve the level of service. Perhaps if the public companies would at year-end… Read more »
Tom McGoldrick
Guest
Tom McGoldrick
14 years 11 months ago
We do a lot of tracking research for our clients and always try to work in a problem resolution question set. Managers are always surprised by the percent of customers who indicate they had an issue and the percentage of customers who indicate that their issue was not resolved to their satisfaction. We then take this data and show them how it affects customer retention. The dollars lost are always large and compelling. However, this is something that managers can control. There are always going to be customers with problems but a good manager can work with their staff to make sure they are quickly and correctly addressed. We also encourage managers to spend enough time on the floor so they see problems as they happen and can get personally involved. This is often an area in which our clients show the greatest improvement. It is a specific issue that any good manager should be able to improve. Unfortunately, all too often many businesses do not even realize they have significant customer complaints.
James Tenser
Guest
14 years 11 months ago
Fair, prompt, accurate resolutions of customer complaints are of paramount value in establishing a firm’s image and reputation. Unfortunately, many organizations shoot themselves in the foot by their actions intended to manage this process. Here’s how: 1) They make contacting the firm too difficult, by burying the information within Web sites or not providing it at all. 2) They try to preemptively classify complaints. Instead of listening first, they require customers to “press a number” or “check a box”. If a complaint doesn’t fall easily into a pre-defined category, the customer must guess or lie. 3) They use waiting time as a weapon to thwart all but the most motivated complainers. 4) They insist that call center humans stick slavishly to the script. Putting all these hurdles in front of complaining customers adds up to a resounding message of indifference from the firm. Any customer that does finally reach the firm is angry and frustrated before the process begins. But here’s the kicker: Then the organization rates itself on complaints received and resolved. The easily… Read more »
Gene Hoffman
Guest
Gene Hoffman
14 years 11 months ago

A retailer cannot remedy a non-reported complaint, but I suggest the real emphasis should be on preventing complaints.

My overview on “dos and don’ts” of reporting complaints is this: The best way to deal the reporting or the non-reporting of customer complaints is to conduct business in such an efficient, dedicated, consumer-guided manner that complaints, real or perceived, are very few or possibly non-existent. Who today does the best job today practicing that methodology? I submit it is the Japanese auto makers and their retailers. Just ask the folks in Detroit or count the new autos on our roads.

Camille P. Schuster, PhD.
Guest
14 years 11 months ago

In the US, 54% to 70% of complainers will do business again if the complaints is handled; 95% will do business again if the complaint is handled quickly. The average dissatisfied customer tells 9 to 10 about it; those who had complaints handled properly tell 5 people.

Working to identify the complainers is good business. You can’t turn the situation around if you don’t know who they are. For consumers to feel their complaint is handled well, they need acknowledgement of the complaint, some sense that something is being done so it won’t happen again, and some sort of effort on the part of the company to demonstrate concern for the inconvenience.

Race Cowgill
Guest
Race Cowgill
14 years 11 months ago
Our research shows that all customer complaints are the result of two basic failures: the core products or services do not meet customer expectations, or the core products or services are delivered poorly (at the wrong speed, in the wrong configuration, at the wrong place, in the wrong way, etc.). There are so many simple strategies retailers can use to turn customer complaints into a powerful tool for rapidly improving the organization, such as enabling (with careful processes) ALL staff who interact with customers to immediately fix problems, and making ALL resolution channels (in-person, email, phone, online chat) available, obvious (easy to find), and responsive (zero-wait). Problems should not occur in the first place. Any organization can install self-correcting systems, which are inexpensive lo-tech/hi-tech combination systems that monitor for errors in the production and delivery of the products and services, self-analyze the root causes, and that correct the processes that produce the errors by building error-free processes. These systems require very little human intervention and require ZERO non-routine action. Self-correcting organizations produce fewer and fewer… Read more »
Phillip T. Straniero
Guest
Phillip T. Straniero
14 years 11 months ago

I once read a comment (I will paraphrase) from Bill Gates…”Your best learnings come from your most unhappy customers.” I also believe that those companies that do not encourage or adequately respond to complaints are subject to the worst kind of advertising…”bad or negative word of mouth.”

Given those scenarios, I applaud those who take the time to listen and learn…we could all name a few of those great companies like the Nordstroms of the world. I’m currently trying to move all of my casualty insurance from one agent to another within the same insurance company …I have received no response from an e-mail placed on their website almost a week ago…I’m about ready to forget about changing agents and start to look for a new insurance provider!!!

Michael Richmond, Ph.D.
Guest
Michael Richmond, Ph.D.
14 years 11 months ago

Okay, talking as a consumer – no one is doing a good job addressing consumer complaints! I have a theory that suggests all businesses have gotten together and said, if none of us do anything, complaints will go away. Seriously, I have had about 5-6 instances in the last 3 months where I complained about a service or product to someone. I was not able to get a single one resolved to my satisfaction, even when I went up 2-3 levels in their organizations. This is a problem – they will listen but do nothing. Companies just don’t get it and they don’t care if this impacts their business. I think another part of the problem is that all the call centers are being outsourced so we are complaining to people who don’t care anyway. I am looking forward to getting some names of companies who do a good job!

Joe foran
Guest
Joe foran
14 years 11 months ago
We’re Costco shoppers. My wife bought Huggies wipes at Costco until Costco stopped carrying them. She tried the Kirkland, but didn’t like them, so she started buying wipes elsewhere. I suggested she complain to Costco. Later, Costco started carrying Huggies wipes again, so she started buying them again. Costco has changed their gallon milk to a new jug; it is clearly more efficient from a cube perspective. She doesn’t like the container; feels that it tends to pour out too quickly and in too wide a flow, especially when full. She feels that the product should have a spout sort of opening, like you see in laundry detergent. What’s the point? I suggested that she complain to Costco about the milk, that the buyer would appreciate the comments. However, since Costco never replied to her Huggies complaint, she feels like her complaint is falling on deaf ears. Even though they started carrying Huggies again, she can’t link her complaint to the return of Huggies because there’s no feedback loop. Even a form letter from the… Read more »
Mark Lilien
Guest
14 years 11 months ago

Customers are certainly smart and they know through bitter experience that, generally, complaints are ignored. Management people are also smart and generally know what the complaints are. Does anyone think that airline executives don’t know their customers are enraged? Does anyone think that auto executives believe customers love their dealers? Does any hospital administrator believe that patients enjoy their stay? Everyone knows what smells. They can smell the issues from miles away. The big issues continue for decades. They aren’t new. Why should airline executives make it easier to voice complaints when they truly believe they can’t do anything to resolve them? Car manufacturers don’t believe they can change their dealers’ behavior. Hospital administrators don’t think they have the power to make their institutions humane.

David Zahn
Guest
14 years 11 months ago

One of the ways that progressive companies are addressing this issue (of having customers that are unhappy, but not registering a “formal” complaint with the company) is by using web crawlers that assess and analyze the content of bulletin board, blog, or other posting sites to get a better sense of what people are saying.

Umbria and BuzzMetrics are two offerings that can provide that capability of providing analysis on what customers are thinking about you, your product, or your competition. I have not used either service, but find the idea of it to be very leading edge and assuming that the analytics behind are tight…very useful.

Esther Patrick
Guest
Esther Patrick
14 years 11 months ago
I am surprised to see the results of this survey. A poorly trained customer service representative is a symptom, not a cause. While businesses continue to view customer complaints as an inescapable part of trade that must be dealt with as a necessary evil, they will also continue to have restrictive 2-dimensional “refund & exchange” policies in place that address only the financial aspects of customer dissatisfaction and ignore the customer’s need to feel valued, heard, and to “have things put right” on a different level. They will also continue to have poor (or no) staff training in place, that leaves employees dis-empowered and ill-equipped to delight the customer and increase their brand loyalty. Businesses which perceive customer complaints as little more than profit shrinkage, and therefore persist in processing them quickly to a set formula and at the minimum possible cost, will find that their perception becomes absolutely true. I have worked for only one business that “got it right”. Joining this company, I thought their complaints policy was bonkers – “Do whatever is… Read more »
Bernice Hurst
Guest
14 years 11 months ago

One of the flaws is the way in which we are using two words interchangeably: complaint and feedback. As a notoriously grumpy big mouth, I always complain when I’m not happy. I sometimes try the polite, sweet, friendly approach and sometimes go rapidly to screaming pitch depending on what the problem may be. Neither ever gets me anywhere. If stores recognised that complaints do equate to feedback and made some effort to accept them and correct them, then far more situations could be resolved amicably. I rarely demand anything other than acknowledgement or apology but always make my views known in the futile hope that the next customer doesn’t have to tolerate the same problem that I have. Somehow stores have to realise that customers are not their enemy but would much prefer to be their friends if only they could feel confident that they would be treated fairly.

Ganapathy Subramanian
Guest
Ganapathy Subramanian
14 years 11 months ago
The best retailers know the best ways to do customer service and customer handling. For an example, not all our ten fingers are same in size. The same goes with customers. Some times, customers may get upset. If a trained manager is on the floor, he knows how to handle it according to customer expectation. IMPORTANT THING – THE MANAGER SHOULD BE AVAILABLE ON THE FLOOR AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE. I would like to share my own experience (in my previous job, I worked as retail manager). One day, as soon as the store opened for customers, a gentleman just dashed into the store (I was watching from a little distance) and checked with sales staff that he wanted to buy trousers and that they should be size altered immediately (he gave just 10 minutes for size alteration) because he has to attend an important official meeting. The sales staff said that it would be possible in two hours. The customer said he was in a hurry, and again the sales staff said that the… Read more »
Cody Begg
Guest
Cody Begg
14 years 11 months ago
i have always thought about customer complaints in the past and the ease at which it is for customers to send complaints. As we know in retail, you will learn the most from the feedback of the customer. One company that does this well is Stew Leonard’s in Connecticut. They have been mentioned before for their various achievements but they make the customer’s voice clearly important to them with a large suggestion box on the way out ans a board where they post suggestions that have encouraged them to change a way they do business. There is a famous story about Stew’s where a customer wrote in the complaint box that they were out of a certain chicken while she was shopping and Stew Leonard’s delviered the chicken to her house that afternoon. My question to the panel is an idea I came up with several years ago but have never implemented. Suppose you made the suggestion box a high tech recording device where a customer can simply press a button and discuss their complaint… Read more »
dan miller
Guest
dan miller
14 years 11 months ago
The greatest problems in improving overall customer service in the retail field are twofold. First is identifying and accepting the fact you have a problem: (a) do the managers walk through the floor and just listen to your coworkers interaction with customers? Do you hear a friendly tone in their voice? Are they generally interested in their customers and their concerns? With 34 years of retail experience, showing genuine concern – even if you are unable to solve a problem – goes a long way to satisfy an irate customer. (b) The coworker and the manager need to understand that it isn’t anything personal. The majority of complaints in retail come from returns or exchanges that don’t adhere to the store’s written policy, or from a dispute in the selling price. The coworkers and managers need to realize that the money they return is not coming out of their paycheck…it’s strictly business and should be dealt with that way. The most successful retailers realize you do whatever it takes to satisfy a customer, sometimes policies… Read more »
wpDiscuz

Take Our Instant Poll

What is the biggest impediment to resolving customer complaints?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...