Was Complaints Handling Buried Under Customer Experience Management?


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The swing towards Voice of the Customer programs and Customer Experience Management seems to have made the subject of simple complaints handling seem rather old hat. Certainly, it seems to receive less coverage in the various industry media publications. Frankly, why would it? It’s not new and it’s not sexy and while CEM promises the world in terms of customer retention and ROI, complaints handling is often a call center process designed to make the customer go away again, as quickly and quietly as possible.

Of course, that’s not true in all industries and certainly not in all companies. The most compelling stories of customer loyalty that any of us hears, tend to be around a bad experience that was brilliantly handled at the complaints handling stage. In fact most of us have our own stories about such situations.

Given the correlation (anecdotal or empirical) between good complaints handling and loyalty, you’d think businesses would take it upon themselves to react well and quickly to customer complaints. Yes, sometimes customers complain about frankly stupid things, but even so, the majority of complaints have at least some basis.

However, good intentions are not enough, and several years ago the UK introduced new legislation in the banking industry. It’s called Treating Customers Fairly (TCF). A key component of this is that customer complaints must be handled fairly and promptly. In the last couple of weeks, changes to the legislation have been announced, based on “inappropriate use” of the current systems. In short, many banks were trying to put customers off pursuing their complaint, even if justified. Fines are substantial so the incentive to get this relatively “unsexy” part of CEM right has been increased.

I do find it mildly astonishing that any company, banks in particular, are actively discouraging people from complaining (particularly when there are essentially laws against it in this case). It’s not fun to be on the receiving end of a phone call from an angry customer, but those people are a rich source of insight into what your company is doing wrong (or is perceived to be doing wrong) and ways to address it. Dealing with a handful of complaints on the same issue can help to resolve the problem, and prevent it affecting many, many more customers.

While those of us who champion VoC and CEM get all excited about new ways to locate the dissatisfied but silent customers, and how to improve the experiences for all customers in the future, I guess we need to remember that much of the world isn’t yet properly handling the people who DO complain.

Time to take a step back perhaps?

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Carolyn Hall
Carolyn Hall is a Product Marketing Manager with Confirmit. Primary focus on creating marketing and PR materials that focus on the business value of technology. Articles published in a number of marketing and customer-focused publications, and experience of hosting round table session with senior marketing executives.


  1. Indeed, it is time for call centers to take a step back and evaluate how they handle customer complaints. Great article. Very good read.


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