Posted: 27th April 2021

Complaints are considered a sign of when things have gone wrong, but they can also offer businesses an opportunity to learn and adapt by actively listening to customers. 

According to Huntswood’s Complaints Outlook 2021 report, 64% of customers feel frustrated when they first discover an issue, rising to 74% if the process of making a complaint is difficult. By removing these barriers, firms will not only show that they care about their customers but unlock a wealth of information that can help them improve their processes and policies and even strengthen their product offering moving forwards.

So, what steps can companies take to be more active in listening to their customers?

Listen to the complaints you do receive

Reducing customer complaints is a strategic goal for many businesses but it’s also important to capture customers’ complaint data and really learn from it. By understanding why customers feel a certain way, firms will not only be able to use that insight to solve the initial problem but to take a more proactive approach to root cause analysis as well as drive product innovation.

Let us take an ecommerce business as an example. Typically, it will hold a significant amount of data on their customers’ orders and interactions, from supply chain to delivery. If that business knows that an order is going to be late, they can engage with the customer ahead of time. This shows a more proactive use of data, that will create lasting positive change for the consumer and reduce the chance of further complaints arising in future.

As Patricia Riddell, Professor of Applied Neuroscience at Reading University, explains, this can have a significant impact not only on customer service but on other parts of your business too.

“There's an opportunity to be innovative when it comes to using data, and not just for fixing the things that people are complaining about. Customers are a fantastic source of ideas for how we can improve products and offer them something that's even better than before. So, this isn’t just about fixing complaints, it's about moving forward and getting ahead of the competition.”

Removing the barriers and introducing a solid listening strategy

A listening strategy should be a key component of any complaints function and will help create a feedback loop from the customer to the organisation. In my experience it’s not always about capturing complaints data but capturing problems too. This means engaging with customers on an issue they may be experiencing before it turns into an official complaint. Understandably, while organisations may be fearful of opening themselves up to negative customer feedback, as Patricia rightly says ‘we learn more from our mistakes’.

My three key actions for removing barriers from the complaints journey are:

  1. Listen. Take the time to understand what your customer needs and how that could impact your relationship with them in the long run.
  2. Be present. This means being in the right place at the right time but also empathising with customers and the individual experiences they are having. This awareness of how we relate to people is essential in removing barriers to complaints.
  3. Take action. View every single complaint as useful information that can be used to shape your future strategy.

Reducing complaint volumes is important and there is also an opportunity, if organisations can hear what their customers are saying during this process, to tap into a powerful source of information and make changes that will turn customers into long term brand advocates.

To hear more insight from Sam, you can listen to our latest edition of the Huntswood podcast hosted by Richard Brown, Technical Advisor for complaints at Huntswood. Sam is joined by Patricia Riddell, to explore the importance of making it easy to complain.