Joined by businesses, consumer rights organisations and even a professional complainer, Responsible 100 held a roundtable on 15 November 2017 in an attempt to get to grips with what makes for POOR, OKAY, GOOD and EXCELLENT practice on handling complaints.
Some key ideas emerged on what really makes a business EXCELLENT when things go wrong…
An EXCELLENT business empowers the staff who first hear the complaint to offer some sort of redress straight away. It has empathetic, supportive staff who can recognise that the business hasn’t performed at its best. With that simple initial response, straight away the business makes a significant step towards remedying the issue. When frontline staff don’t have to go off and check with their manager, customers receive smoother service.
An EXCELLENT business supports vulnerable customers, including those who are not aware of their vulnerability. For instance, a leading financial services company anticipate that their customers may have undiagnosed Alzheimer’s disease. Staff receive training on how to support such customers.
An EXCELLENT business can seamlessly put a vulnerable customer into a different complaints track, and support them so they get the most out of the process. Receiving a poorly constructed letter from a customer might lead an EXCELLENT company to recognise that it may be best to establish communication with this customer over the phone. Organisations need a holistic understanding of vulnerability - recognising that even the most resilient customer may be vulnerable in specific circumstances.
An EXCELLENT business makes it easy to complain - they put complaints templates on their website, they tell customers exactly what information is needed to complain and they contact the customers who don’t yet know they’ve been treated unfairly or received substandard service. Some businesses use behavioural economics approaches to work out how to effectively get in touch with customers. Sending just one letter may not be enough - a business should work towards alerting the customer in the most effective way.
In some cases, an EXCELLENT business may be able to auto-compensate customers without the customer needing to act. A business’s ability to do this depends on their product, and on the details they hold. For example, banks are frequently able to identify their own errors and could put money back into a customer’s account if it was taken in error. It was argued that, similarly, airlines could and should provide automatic redress without customers needing to contact them first.
It’s not good enough for companies to claim they are obliged to follow bureaucratic, procedural norms and make customers jump through hoops in order to be compensated. Instead the best companies are proactive and attentive to each customer’s individual needs.
Do you agree? Are we setting the bar too high? Get in touch to join the discussion.