I was recently discussing Stephen Covey's metaphor of an Emotional Bank Account with some clients, explaining that one of the ways to make a "deposit" is to apologize sincerely. And I emphasized that saying, "I'm sorry you feel that way" does NOT count as a sincere apology!*
On a broader level, how does your organization respond to customer complaints? Are you just sorry they feel that way? Complaints are one of the most valuable sources of feedback a company can receive. Reportedly, a customer who has had a complaint satisfactorily resolved is more loyal than a customer who has never made a complaint. Certainly, complaints can alert you to opportunities for improvement, reduce the need for rework, and prompt ideas for innovation.
Very often, though, these complaints are not viewed in aggregate. People at the front line, dealing directly with customers, may be afraid of the repercussions of reporting a complaint, such as being blamed or viewed as inadequate. Another issue can be that the front line does not know how to report a complaint; there is no formal process in place. In rare instances, the front line is so empowered to act, that those employees can resolve the complaint quickly and completely, and therefore do not report it as a complaint (however, this still undermines the broader perspective, so similar issues can continue to arise).
As a case in point, a friend told me of an experience at a local bank. She was making a deposit to pay the current balance on an equity line account. The teller gave her the current balance, which was far higher (almost 20%!) than she expected. When she asked for clarification, the teller read the screen, but could not explain why some additional charges had been added on to the account. Instead, he gave her a phone number to call. And that was the end of his responsibility, apparently -- although I am sure that he was sorry that the customer was feeling that way -- frustrated. He did not report a complaint, bring it to a manager's attention, or take any initiative to fix the problem. (In case you were wondering, the "system" was wrong, because the originating banker did not set up the account correctly. It took multiple phone calls, several hours, and two trips to the bank to give them money!)
Did the teller learn anything from this situation? Did the loan officer learn of her mistake? Is management going to improve customer service? They essentially shifted the responsibility for fixing the problem to the customer.
As a result, I don't think my friend will be doing business with that bank much longer.
It is much more expensive to acquire a customer or client than to keep one. Are you using your complaints effectively, to maximize customer retention? It takes a few changes from the top:
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