How Complaint Handling Can Drive Your Business’s Growth


By Monika Götzmann

For sales organizations, delivering customer satisfaction is a top priority, which is why companies invest so heavily in things like customer service training and coaching.

Yet, despite these investments, customer complaints are somewhat inevitable. That’s why effective complaint handling can make the difference between successful companies and ones that struggle to stay in business.

The Institute of Customer Service’s recent UK Customer Satisfaction Index Report says customer satisfaction is at its highest-ever point, and the company’s CEO, Joanna Causon, says this improvement is “driven significantly by better complaint handling.”

Credibly explains why focusing on improving your complaint handling process can present such a big opportunity for your business.

Complaints Are on the Rise — And That’s Okay

The key findings of the UKCSI were that overall customer satisfaction is currently at its highest level ever, yet the rate of customer complaints has also risen. Furthermore, the proportion of customers who escalate their complaint increased from 41.4% to 48.6% in the past year.

This is only possible because satisfaction with the way complaints are handled has also increased in the past year. Indeed, according to the UKCSI, satisfaction increased by 0.5% between 2016 and 2017. As a result, despite there being more complaints, they are being handled more effectively, so customers remain more satisfied.

What this research highlights is the importance of investing in training, so that staff become adept at handling complaints. This should cover all customer touchpoints, as customers are increasingly turning to social media, rather than the telephone, and that makes the way you deal with complaints publicly visible.

“Facebook and Twitter play an increasingly important role,” says Michael Hawthorne from Miller Heiman Group. “Social networking allows customers to have direct contact with businesses, but this communication needs to be carefully planned in order to manage customers’ expectations correctly and inspire trust.”

What Does Effective Complaint Handling Look Like?

Clearly, making improvements to complaint handling provides an excellent opportunity to improve customer satisfaction levels and achieve business growth in the process. However, it is vital to understand exactly what customers are looking for from your customer service staff in order to achieve excellent complaints handling.

Based on customer service statistics compiled by ABa Quality Monitoring Ltd, 70% of complaining customers will willingly do business with you again, as long as you resolve the complaint in their favor. Moreover, that figure increases to 95% if the complaint is resolved instantly.

According to the authors of the UKCSI report, the key reasons for improvements to complaint resolution are faster resolution times and more frequent follow-up on issues to ensure that a satisfactory resolution has been achieved. The report also states that the average complaint results in 2.8 contacts from a customer to a business, which increases to more than three contacts when a complaint exceeds the customer’s expected time scale.

These statistics show that customers expect to be fully satisfied by your response and don’t expect to be kept waiting for it either. When it comes to your customer service coaching, you should place a great deal of emphasis on making sure your staff know how to resolve complaints to the customer’s benefit as quickly as possible.

The Importance of Prevention

Despite the statistics presented, and the inevitability of receiving customer complaints, it is important that businesses don’t neglect preventative measures. Indeed, while complaint handling should be a customer service coaching priority, businesses are still better off preventing problems from arising in the first place.

This was highlighted in the aforementioned UKCSI study, which showed that the average customer satisfaction score among those who had made complaints was 60.8, compared to 78.2 among those who had not made complaints. Moreover, 72% of complaints led to a lower satisfaction level than if the complaint had never arisen.

In addition, it is important to understand that most unhappy customers do not actually complain at all. In fact, according to the White House Office of Consumer Affairs, for each customer who complains, 26 stay silent.

Therefore, while improving your complaints handling could be your single biggest opportunity for business growth this year, some customers will remain out of your reach. For this reason, it is essential that your customer service training also focuses on delivering the type of excellent service that prevents complaints in the first place.

About the Author

Monika Götzmann is the EMEA Marketing Director of Miller Heiman Group, a global sales training and customer experience company that specializes in providing exceptional customer service coaching. She enjoys sharing her insights to develop better sales and customer service skills in salespeople.

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