Using Complaints to Drive Customer Experience

January 9, 2023 in Business

Using Complaints to Drive Customer Experience

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Customer experience (CX) is one of the strongest drivers for conversion and advocacy in modern business. In fact, 77% of brands believe it’s a key competitive differentiator, according to research by Emplifi.

Yet, one of the biggest barriers to positive customer experience growth is complaint management. Customer complaints are unavoidable in any service environment, but they’re a necessary evil. Complaints measure customer experience better than any Net Promoter Score (NPS) ever could. They provide crucial feedback that help brands improve CX, identify needs and service demand by improving products or services.

In this blog, we’ll take a closer look at the benefits of a robust complaint management strategy, and how it can drive great customer experience.

Female customer browsing items in a clothing store.

The Next Generation of Customer Complaints

Once customer complaints were isolated conversations between customers and businesses. Those conversations still happen, but now everyone’s listening. Review platforms like TripAdvisor have built their entire USP off collaborative content and public opinions, essentially amplifying the voice of the customer.

93% of consumers read online reviews before making a purchase (Qualtrics), and as many as 70% admit to using rating filters in their purchasing decisions. That means these public complaints have an immense impact on a business’ reputation and as a result, its conversions.

This shift in consumer behavior has transformed the way businesses respond to feedback. Due to increased public sensitivity caused by the pandemic, a customer leaving without negative feedback can be misconstrued as a good customer experience. The overarching impact is far more widespread. Only 1 in 26 unhappy customers go out of their way to complain, but 13% of all customers will share their experience with 15 people or more (Benbria).

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The Business Case for Complaints Management

Against the harsh reality of web 2.0’s very public forum, monitoring, responding and actioning complaints has become crucial to CX strategy. Businesses need to create performance-based accountability internally around the relevance of customer voice and its impact on brand loyalty, advocacy and satisfaction. When data suggests 66% of people who have a poor customer experience never return, it’s clear disregard can impact bottom-line performance.

Creating a framework for customer complaints isn’t an instant fix, though it does go some way towards repairing brand image. If a customer feels their complaint has been taken seriously and acted on promptly, they are more likely to advocate for your service. On the other hand, if a customer feels their complaint was ignored, they’re less likely to engage with the brand again. With poor internal experience comes negative public sentiments, which spread quickly through word-of-mouth and the variety of social media channels available to the consumer.

Not to mention, complaints are unlike any other feedback your business can receive. Brands can collect huge troves of qualitative data from complaints that can build market insight, improve audience segmentation and strengthen ties between products/services and buyer pains.

Reactive Reports

Collating feedback in real-time helps brands to pay attention. It means they can respond to sudden changes that move the needle on revenue, satisfaction and retention. For example, if a consumer complains about difficulty ordering, compared to competitors, brands can identify areas to remedy sooner.

Qualitative Insights & Buyer Empathy

A healthy brand experience cannot be built on quantitative insights alone. Feedback is qualitative by nature. It helps leaders improve the experience of their branch’s customers based on a range of opinions, visits and consumer pains in real-time. By discerning customers’ expectations from feedback, businesses can empathize with consumers and provide services that solve their problems.

Stronger Personalization at-Scale

By capturing feedback from each stage, brands can map the customer journey and ask the right questions at the right time. The results can boost audience profiles for customer grouping, stronger marketing and personalization at scale. When companies create a marketing campaign that is more customer-centric, it’s often due to customer feedback.

Casual Business Meeting

Responding to Complaints

Brands cannot respond to complaints in the same way each time. Consistency is valuable, but not when compared to authenticity. When many major businesses already struggle to humanize their brands, faceless automation or robotic responses only make it worse. Equally, while every brand hopes for a manageable income of complaints, this isn’t always the case. Certainly for bigger businesses, complaints can stream in huge numbers, especially in times of service change or product transition.

Businesses must decide on the most important types of complaints and use these to  understand their brand experience. The importance of each complaint type will differ by company, whether the focus is an issue with products, employee performance, or service pricing. Discerning the possibilities available takes connecting the complaint with the missed Key Performance Indicator (KPI), thus creating a goal for future expectations.

Ingrain it in the Company Culture

Business leaders should ensure every customer facing employee takes complaints seriously. This also means creating a culture that encourages employees to turn ‘lemons into lemonade”, and empowers customers to share their experiences. Not listening to customer complaints and ignoring their grievances will harm your brand experience and NPS. The most effective CX leaders invest time and money into learning the root cause of the complaint and trying to prevent them moving forwards.

Build Understanding

When responding to customer complaints, some businesses make the mistake of not gathering enough evidence about the factors that led to the issue. If a business lacks the framework to do this research, initiatives such as mystery shopping can be used to collect evidence. This will build knowledge of how customers view your services and how your employees interact with them.

Incentivize CX

One of the biggest challenges for brands is conveying the importance of customer experience to employees. When doing so, incentives should be used to encourage team members to proactively try working in new ways until these strategies become habit. Equally, if employees are armed with the tools to deliver excellent customer interactions, they’re unlikely to see these initiatives as a “grudge” duty.

Respond Quickly

Businesses need to respond to customer complaints swiftly and provide proper resolutions as soon as possible. A slow response will leave customers dissatisfied. This may lead them to take their business elsewhere and complain on public forums like social media platforms, damaging your brand image in the process.

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Final Thoughts

Taking time to learn how respond well to complaints is the first step in improving your brand experience and reducing the number of complaints you receive.

The next step is making these changes, and this involves recognizing the opportunity that every complaint presents. Seeing mistakes as simply opportunities for your business to make changes will bring lasting benefits.

Whether the steps that need to be made involve changing services or improving employee training, Service Evaluation Concepts understand every business has unique challenges. Our expert team has decades of experience showing businesses how to measure what needs to be managed when it comes to employee engagement and customer experience. We can help you to do the same.

Get in touch with our experts today.



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