How to Handle Insitututional Complaints


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As a customer, have you ever been frustrated by the way a company does business?

Case in point would be the times you are standing in line behind 10 other customers at Walmart! As you wait not so patiently, you notice that only 5 of their 20 registers are open. Reaching the counter you express your angst to the cashier. “Why don’t you have more registers open?!”

Why did you ask HER that question? Certainly you are aware that this young lady has not been put in charge of staffing for the Walmart Corporation! She now turns to you and in a rather exasperated tone says, “I’m doing the best I can!”

Certainly this customer service representative WAS doing the best she could . . . until that moment! Service failure occurred the second she uttered those words because that was NOT the response hoped for by the customer.

An institutional complaint happens when a customer complains about the way you do business. Usually the complaint is issued to a front line employee who has no control over the concern identified.

So what DOES the customer want to hear as a response? Two things:

1. An empathetic response
Remember that empathy and sympathy are NOT the same thing. “I’m sorry” is sympathy and has no place here. The cashier did not DO anything wrong and therefore has no reason to say “I’m sorry”. An example of showing empathy would be, “I certainly regret that you have had to wait. I know that can be frustrating, especially at this time of day.” But here is where the customer wants more in response to an institutional complaint

2. Evidence that concern will be passed on to management
“Our goal is complete customer satisfaction. I will be sure to pass your concern and suggestion for more registers to my manager. I know they will appreciate your input.” The customer has expressed this concern in a hope that you will do something to improve the way in which you do business. Offering to open another register at this point would not help the customer. Knowing input is valued is key. Here is where the real moment of truyth comes to the forefront. Make sure you have a formal means of passing institutional customer complaints and concerns up the ladder to someone who CAN do something about them.

Realize that the customer has just volunteered as a free consultant to your organization. Heed their advice in the aggregate and your service will be vaulted to a higher level! Customer service training citing examples of institutional complaints specific to your organization can be a big help in this area. If you need help on such training, give me a call!

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Teresa Allen
Teresa Allen is a nationally recognized customer service speaker and customer service author. Allen is owner of Common Sense Solutions, a national training and consulting firm focused on bringing common sense to business and life. Allen is author of Common Sense Service: Close Encounters on the Front Lines and is co-author of The Service Path: Your Roadmap for Building Strong Customer Loyalty.


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