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Complaints: From Cost-centre to Marketing Discipline

Complaints: From Cost-centre to Marketing Discipline 35

By Martin Ellingham, director, product management compliance at Aptean, looks at how complaint management can drive profitability

2019’s UK Customer Satisfaction Index (UKCSI) compiled by the Institute of Customer Service found that customer satisfaction levels had dropped to their lowest levels since January 2016. While this could be explained by a simple drop in customer service, one could argue that customer expectations are now higher than ever before, with customers experiencing more good service and therefore expecting excellence at every turn. Where good used to be good enough, it’s no longer the case, with customer service excellence now a prerequisite for customers on a daily basis.

Nowhere is this more true than with complaints resolution, where many businesses have upped their game considerably, recognising the not insignificant business benefits to be garnered from a robust yet swift complaint management process.

While it’s always been recognised that effective customer complaint management has a huge impact on customer retention, it’s often been difficult to calculate the profitability (if any) of successful complaint management. The long-standing mindset had been to ‘resolve and close’, moving swiftly on to the next in the list of complaints or issues, with little or no follow-up or investigation into root cause analyses and the like. As such, complaint management was seen as a typically reactive business process, often regarded as a cost centre, as opposed to a revenue generator, and was often the victim of cost cutting programmes or a prime target for cut backs.

New opportunities

Thankfully, a great deal of businesses have recognised the vital role that complaint management has to play not only as a crucial tool to nurture customer trust and loyalty, but how complaint management, when done properly, can be a key driver of profitability. Turning complaints into opportunities is now the biggest challenge businesses face, using these valuable customer interactions and resulting information as a springboard to not only improve customer relationships, encouraging that all-important customer loyalty, but as a source of information to underpin far-reaching business improvements for the good of the wider organisation.

In a way, complaint resolution is potentially the best marketing tool you didn’t know you had, putting you directly in touch with your customers for potentially valuable one-on-one time that, had it not been for the complaint, would never have occurred. However, it’s what you do with this complaint and the resulting information that makes all the difference. If handled in the right way, it can increase customer loyalty, secure repeat business and create reliable advocates for your business, arguably the most vital marketing asset to possess in our current social-media fuelled marketplace.

Actionable feedback

So, what does a business need to do to turn complaints into opportunities? Well, first and foremost, it’s crucial to understand that the journey doesn’t end with a complaint being resolved. To a certain extent, this is the first step in a potentially valuable process. It’s only by collating in-depth information and insight into the customer’s complaint experience that businesses can hope to turn complaints to their advantage. Using customer feedback, it’s possible to drive improvements across the business, not only in terms of complaint management but in terms of products, services and processes, too. The ability to gather actionable, insightful feedback is a must if businesses are to drive real efficiencies across the entire business, resulting in a significant boost to profitability.

If businesses are to turn complaints into profit centres, they need to own the entire process, leaving behind the ‘resolve and close’ mentality and treating complaints as opportunities to improve customer experience and the business as a whole. By using complaints as a key marketing tool, businesses can turn best practice into a key business differentiator, securing that all-important competitive advantage by making the most of the invaluable customer feedback that the entire complaints management process provides.

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