Complaints from customers are an inescapable fact of life for any business. So an organisation without complaints from its customers is either not communicating with its customers or is not recording the complaints that its customers are making.
An antiquated view could be that complaints from customers are bad for business as it is a criticism of the organisation and of the people running it. Or “the customer is wrong as they bought our product in the first place in the knowledge that we were the best, and in fact we are the best….so these complaints are wrong and should be ignored”.
These are arrogant attitudes to take and ultimately destructive as everybody has a choice. If a customer feels that they are not being well treated by their supplier or that the supplier’s product or service does not meet up to their expectations they will switch to a new supplier once there is a viable alternative. If there is no viable alternative they can simply opt out from purchasing that product completely.
For organisations that are governed by ISO standards or regulated by the FDA a complaints management system is a requirement. This complaints management system must be able to demonstrate the steps that have been followed to fix the relevant complaints with the system being auditable by an independent auditor.
In fact being in contact with ones customers could be said to be beneficial. A happy customer is more likely to keep on buying and, of greater importance, is more likely to provide a positive reference to another potential customer. An unhappy customer on the other hand will dissuade potential customers from purchasing a product from a supplier that they feel have mistreated or ignored them. What makes a customer happy or unhappy is not always clear and can truly only be determined by listening to them. But what we do know is that happy customers will lead to more sales and more profits.
Complaints can come from anywhere. A customer may mention an issue as an informal comment during a golf match to a friend who is employed by the supplier or during a meeting with the supplier’s sales representative. Alternatively, the customer may be more direct about it by making a formal and detailed complaint to the supplier’s customer service area.
This means that the details of a complaint may not always be clear and specific. So more information about the issue will need to be solicited from the customer in order to understand exactly what the problem is as without understanding the cause of the problem it is difficult to resolve the problem and ensure that it does not get repeated again. In many instances it is common to want to replicate exactly the steps that led to the problem before being able to understand the cause and to fix it. The complaints handling process can be rather prescriptive and an organisation can easily get overwhelmed if they are in receipt of a large number of complaints.
A Complaints Management software system can be an important tool in helping to ensure that the required steps in handling a complaint are followed but also that these are done efficiently and quickly. Furthermore, the use of online customer complaint software that operates “In the Cloud”, means that a complaint can be logged by the salesman while in the customer’s office or at home after the game of golf. The complaint is then electronically sent to a central point from where the next steps are identified and actioned. These can be a request for more information or the request for identification of the Root Cause if the non-conformance was clearly identified when the complaint was logged or the assigning of specific corrective measures that an identified individual or group must perform within a time line that is consistent with the severity of the complaint.
Customers expect a lot more from their suppliers and they will measure them on how quickly they respond to an issue and how rapidly they work towards the resolution of the issue.
The smallest trouble might turn into a major issue if not resolved and the identification of trends and commonalities that complaints management software facilitates will mean that issues are identified early and are less likely to become major issues. With consistent and effective use of customer complaints software, an organisation may feel more confident in identifying preventive measures rather than waiting to receive the complaints that require corrective measures. This creates comfort and loyalty in customers and can be converted to more business.