Tuesday, 17 June 2008

5 Myths of Complaint Handling

I thought I'd just share this little teaser excerpt from the forthcoming second edition of "A Complaint is a Gift" with you. These are 5 myths about complaint handling, which you might find useful to keep in mind when dealing with annoyed customers.

Myth # 1: People naturally know how to handle complaints. After all, they've been receiving them their entire lives.
Reality: Most people have to check their natural reactions when they receive complaints. At some level, a complaint is perceived as an attack, and when confronted most of us are inclined to attack back, especially if the complaint is delivered in a blaming manner. Effective complaint handling requires that we counter our instinctive tendencies. When staff who work call-center phones hear themselves on tape with a customer, they are frequently surprised that they sound so hostile and arrogant with customers.

Myth # 2: It's a good idea to set targets to reduce the number of complaints you receive.
Reality: Bad idea! If you set targets to reduce complaints, your staff will help you by not reporting the bad news they hear. To some degree this normally happens.
Setting targets to reduce complaints will only encourage staff to make sure your organization receives even less customer feedback. Your staff will do this by making it more difficult for customers to complain or by discarding complaint evidence.

Myth # 3: If you give customers what they want, you have satisfied them.
Reality: No way! Giving customers what they want when they complain does not guarantee satisfaction. There is a huge emotional component to complaints. If this emotionality is not addressed, you can give customers whatever they want, and they will still walk away upset. Good responders understand the psychological dimensions of complaint handling.

Myth # 4: Complaint handling and sales are unrelated.
Reality: Complaint handling is as demanding a task as is sales. Actually, a good complaint handler is, in effect, a sales person for your organization because they keep your customers coming back.

Myth # 5: Complaints are a sign that your company is not doing a quality job.
Reality: Companies will always create some dissatisfaction for their customers. Zero defects is a target, often not a possibility. Your quality suffers when you fail to hear this dissatisfaction. Complaints represent an open dialogue with your customers who are giving you a chance to keep their business. They are giving you information you might otherwise not hear that you can use to improve your quality. At a minimum, complaining customers are talking with you, rather than the rest of the world. And that is a gift!

"A Complaint is a Gift" hits the shelves in bookstores across the US on August 1st. You can also pre-order a copy from Amazon.com or read more about the book in previous posts.

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