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Making customer complaints work for you

customer-blogWe are introducing a new concept into our blog! Some of our clients are in the B2B consultancy business so we are offering clients the opportunity to have a soapbox to offer advice to other PPR clients and in so doing open up new networking possibilities. This week Charley Swords of Swords Consultancy offers advice on Making Customer Complaints Work for You. Swords Consultancy is an international consultancy that helps organisations achieve business results through change management, organisation design and restructuring. The company has been a client of PPR for two years. For more information or to visit their website go to




 It is said that 91% of people don’t complain. They prefer to get their ‘revenge’ by not buying from a company that has sold them an inferior product or provided a poor service. More dangerous is the statistic that every dissatisfied customer shares their bad experience with at least another seven people. 


Whatever the reason for dissatisfaction we should never underestimate the feelings that lie behind it.  What might seem simple at first could turn into something complex and unpleasant.  Don’t take anything for granted and handle all customers who complain with:

  • A good listening ear.
  • Understanding.
  • Tact.
  • Carefully chosen words. 


Today’s customers are more demanding and have a greater awareness of what good service should be. We all want to be treated as if we matter and are valued. So complaints regarding service usually spawn from:


  • Indifferent attitudes of staff.
  • Lack of manners and common courtesy.
  • More concern with profit than with people.
  • Slow responses to queries and transactions.
  • Poor product knowledge on the part of the staff.
  • Lack of communication skills.


Complaints about product quality arise when expectations are not met.


There are three stages leading up to any purchase:

  • Anticipation – savouring the idea of the purchase and reading promotional information.
  • Planning – deciding where and when to go, with whom and the likely costs.
  • Discussion – involving others in the decision-making process.


These three stages lead to excitement and raised expectations. So complaints happen when the products are of sub-standard quality, there are hidden charges, the product’s capabilities are more limited than anticipated or when information on a web site or brochures out of date or incorrect.


Inviting Complaints

Complaints provide us with direction towards making improvements so they should be welcomed as they are in fact opportunities to:

  • Evaluate how well we are doing.
  • Identify weak points in our systems and processes and to put them right.
  • See situations from the customer’s point of view.
  • Improve customer satisfaction.
  • Create long-term loyalty. Handling disgruntled customers well, often leaves them feeling more positive about our organisation than before.


Make it easy to Complain:

It is important to make it easy for customers to give you feedback. If they are unhappy about something, they may feel uncomfortable about doing so, don’t know how to or to whom they should speak, or they don’t have time. 


So give them a choice of ways in which to lodge their complaint:

  • Simple questionnaires with pre-paid postage.
  • Telephone Help Line.
  • Exit surveys – face-to-face questions.
  • Comment Cards.
  • Via the Web Site.


Let customers know that you welcome their complaints and also what you will do with the information.


Activity for the Month – check your complaint handling procedure – review the complaints received over the past month to see if there are any recurring problems and if so, resolve it and monitor for a reduction over the coming month.


Remember – Customer complaints are never easy to hear.  If we move from being defensive to opportunistic, complaints will become an ‘ally’ to the business.  If we do not listen to the complaints, rest assured, the bottom line will show the impact in time.


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