Brain Food: Crash course in ... Handling customer complaints

You've had a letter from a customer complaining that their previous complaints weren't taken seriously. It's made you wonder if there are other unhappy customers out there. So how might you be doing better?

by Alexander Garrett

Define a complaint. ISO 10002 calls it: 'An expression of dissatisfaction made to an organisation ... where a response or resolution is explicitly or implicitly expected.' It's a complaint whether it's delivered in writing, by phone, e-mail or any other channel.

Encourage complaints rather than suppress them. As the old adage goes: 'If we're doing something right, tell your friends; if we're doing something wrong, tell us.'

Record it. The reasons for logging complaints are several: you can analyse the cause to identify trends that indicate bigger problems; monitoring the number of complaints gives a measure of your customer service; and a tracking system should ensure that every complaint is resolved or responded to.

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