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Let’s Talk: Turning customer complaints into opportunities

In the dynamic landscape of business, customer complaints are an inevitable aspect of the journey.

They can serve as a pivotal turning point for a company, leading to either customer disillusionment or, when managed adeptly, an opportunity for growth and improvement. In this exploration, we delve into the art of handling customer complaints discovering strategies that transform grievances into valuable assets for businesses.

Join us on this journey to uncover the methods and insights that can empower your organization to navigate the realm of customer feedback with finesse and turn complaints into opportunities for success in this week’s edition of Let’s Talk.

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David Price, CEO Employsure Australia, and New Zealand

David Price
David Price, CEO Employsure Australia, and New Zealand

“Most businesses will face their fair share of customer complaints. How they respond to those complaints can make or break a brand. While a happy customer might tell a friend, an unhappy customer will tell the world.

“When customers voice concerns, businesses should actively listen, empathise and take appropriate action. The goal is always to resolve problems promptly, offering fair solutions that align with company policies. Simple gestures such as refunds, replacements, or vouchers can quickly turn negative experiences into positive ones.

“Training employees with adequate conflict resolution skills can further enhance the service experience for dissatisfied customers. Crucially, feedback from customers should always be welcomed and shared throughout the business. Even bad feedback represents an opportunity to improve.

“In the digital age, online platforms enable customers to spread negative feedback far and wide, underscoring the need for rapid responses. Constantly monitoring online review sites for unhappy customers is the first line of defence when it comes to protecting a company’s reputation.

“Going the extra mile to fix complaints demonstrates a ‘customer first’ ethos. This helps with retaining existing customers and attracting new ones. Ultimately, businesses that prioritise resolving customer complaints promptly are setting themselves up for long-term success.”

Elise Balsillie, Head of Thryv Australia

Elise Balsillie
Elise Balsillie, Head of Thryv Australia

“In any business sector or service, customer complaints will always happen. Whether the complaint lies with you or with circumstances beyond your control, addressing it quickly and making things right is imperative. Handle the complaint well, and you can turn a disgruntled customer into a fan. Handle it poorly, and the ripple effect of a bad experience can have a lasting impact on your business and reputation.

“An important part of handling customer complaints is first understanding where things went wrong. Maintaining clear, digital records of each interaction you have with your customer enables you to easily search and identify any potential issues.

“Not only will this allow you to resolve a complaint more effectively, but you’ll be able to see where possible loopholes or gaps occur in your processes so that you can correct and avoid them in the future.”

Siva Subramaniam, Management Consultant & Director Business Development at Nearsol Philippines

Siva Subramaniam
Siva Subramaniam, Management Consultant & Director Business Development at Nearsol Philippines

“Handling Customer Complaints requires a two prong approach.

“One, we need to quickly respond to customer complaint and resolve it to the customers satisfaction. Any failure to resolve quickly means, they compliant can become bigger and make the social media rounds. Does not mean we need to resolve all complaints. Where we cannot resolve, we need to provide the end customer more than sufficient evidence and T&C’s, signed by the client to ensure there is proper closure to the compliant. These days, there are outsourced or call centers providing this service for major companies.

“Second, the company needs to do root cause analysis as to why the complaint happened and address the areas. The common scenario to avoid complaints is for companies to do what we call a Service Journey Strategy where the company maps all types of inquires and ensure ALL departments that touches the client query is aligned and the hand-off is smooth.

“We generally recommend that the complaint handling is outsourced so that resolution process is impartial.”

Caitlin Zotti, Co-CEO at Pin Payments

Caitlin Zotti
Caitlin Zotti, Co-CEO at Pin Payments

“A key to providing good customer service is understanding the client profile that you are serving. Our clients are small and medium businesses, with many of them being owner operated, so we understand that any problems which arise need to be resolved quickly and efficiently in order to not impact our clients’ business operations and their respective customers. This is why we feel strongly about having a local team providing both phone and email support – so that our business clients can speak with a real person as soon as they encounter a problem, and we can work to rectify it together.

“At Pin Payments our customer service team is locally based in Melbourne, Australia. We are a close-knit team and our customer service team are empowered to promptly address customer concerns and provide product feedback improvements to our technical teams. These interactions with your clients can often be used as learning opportunities and help to strengthen your business and service offering, along with building relationships with your clients (which in turn can improve retention rates!).”

David Dahdah, Branding & Content Creator at Big Smoke Media Group

David Dahdah
David Dahdah, Branding & Content Creator at Big Smoke Media Group

“I believe that if you’re unable to handle a complaint, it’s because you’ve become complacent. It says nothing about your competency, just your ability to take a step back.

“Part of complacency is forgetting that you’re dealing with another person. Your customers/clients/audience are people on their own journeys, dealing with their own problems, pushing through their own solutions.

“I am of the opinion that regardless of your product, you want to be seen as a partner, not a service provider. Your best tool in negotiation is your capacity to actively listen, understand, and empathise with the person on the other side.

“There have been many instances in my career where addressing a client’s specific concerns, rather than offering a generic solution, quickly de-escalated the call to a friendly conversation so that I could get the work done.

“Not everyone wants a refund, really. Even if they say they do initially. Hear the person on the other side, and think about what would satisfy you if you were in their shoes.”

Mike Halligan, CEO and Co-Founder of Scratch Dog Food

Mike Halligan
Mike Halligan, CEO and Co-Founder of Scratch Dog Food

“Customer service comes down to reactionary and preventative measures.

“At Scratch, we reach out soon after someone signs up to check how their dog is finding our product, and what their experience has been so far. Our proactivity and checking in helps to spot and prevent future larger issues that might result in churn or an unhappy customer.

“Of course that can only do so much. Things change. Stuff comes up. Customers’ needs and perspectives change. So when you do get customer service complaints in, make sure you have a CS culture of respecting the customer and wanting to get them a good, fair outcome.

“That often comes down to incentives, be it through KPIs, culture or remuneration. There’s a big difference in how your CS will perform if you have a ticket mindset and focus on the number of people responded to, compared to focusing on quality and customer experience.”

Dhanush Ganglani, Managing Director, Eden Exchange

Dhanush Ganglani
Dhanush Ganglani, Managing Director, Eden Exchange

“Handling customer complaints and ensuring prompt service is an essential aspect of maintaining a successful business. Doing this takes having the right people, processes and systems in place. Consider implementing the following:

  • Prioritise Effective Communication: Establish clear channels for customers to voice their concerns, and train your staff to listen actively, empathise with customers and respond courteously. And keep the customer informed throughout the resolution process by clearly explaining the steps you're taking to address the issue, the timeline involved and any potential outcomes.
  • Swift Response Time: Promptly acknowledge customer complaints to demonstrate your commitment to resolving issues, and express your concern and dedication to finding a solution.
  • Empower Your Team: Ensure your staff is empowered to make decisions within their authority to resolve complaints to avoid unnecessary delays.
  • Follow-Up: After implementing a solution, follow up with the customers to ensure their satisfaction. This not only demonstrates your dedication to their well-being, but it also gives you an opportunity to gather feedback for further improvement.

“Remember, customer service training should be an ongoing process. Regularly review and analyse customer complaints to identify patterns or recurring issues, so you can make necessary changes to prevent similar problems in the future.

“While complete avoidance of customer complaints is unlikely, proactively addressing them with timeliness and empathy can safeguard your brand reputation and pave the way for significant success.”

Eric Parker, Head of Cloud Solutions at ipSCAPE

Eric Parker
Eric Parker, Head of Cloud Solutions at ipSCAPE

“Handling customer complaints promptly presents an opportunity for businesses to enact their service recovery strategy. Using ipSCAPE’s Advanced Speech Analytics solution, businesses can detect customer complaints even if they are not formally expressed as such, and even predict complaints before they occur.

“Specifically designed for financial services organisations, the solution monitors for ‘expressions of dissatisfaction’, which ASIC Regulatory Guide 271 now defines formally as a complaint. Organisations are obliged to manage these expressions of dissatisfaction as complaints and meet all of the resulting SLAs.

“The solution operates by applying a specialised AI model to produces a ‘Complaince Risk Score’ (CRS). This score indicates to managers whether the customer has expressed dissatisfaction, or is at risk of making a complaint. Going beyond just what was said, the AI takes into several natural language models, as well as accounting for eight separate emotionality factors across the duration of the interaction.

“Available as an add-on to ipSCAPE’s cloud contact centre solution, Advanced Speech Analytics enabled an Insurance company to take pro-active action and reduce the incidence of complaints by 60%, with follow on benefits of reduced customer churn, and improved customer experience.”

Taylor McPhail, Co-Owner of McPhails Furniture

Taylor McPhail
Taylor McPhail, Co-Owner of McPhails Furniture

“We have taken over our own deliveries and have our own trucks and drivers now. This means that we have a lot more control over the handling of our furniture and the delivery which has brought complaints down a lot. Additionally, if for any reason anything does arrive broken, which is rare, we can easily replace it within 2 weeks when we next have a truck run to that location.”

Kristen Pimpini, Regional Vice President, FLEX APJ, Twilio

Kristen Pimpini
Kristen Pimpini, Regional Vice President, FLEX APJ, Twilio

“AI is drastically improving the way that businesses are engaging with their customers, and is an incredibly valuable tool in the current market. As macroeconomic forces are creating uncertainty, many businesses are needing to achieve more with reduced marketing budgets. Consumers also still expect highly personalised, human engagement with brands. AI is now allowing companies to rise to both challenges concurrently.

“Conversational AI is paving the way for better human interaction with streamlined operational costs. Different from chatbots that would operate on straightforward rules and rely on predefined content, Conversational AI systems use natural language processing (NLP) to generate complex sentences independently, understand the user’s intent, and respond to customers as humans would. The use of Conversational AI in this way can reduce human involvement in unnecessarily lengthy manual processes – resulting in better use of resources and allowing agents to focus on providing that sought after human touch. Real-time data access from Conversational AI solutions can also help live agents to intervene promptly when the customer is not satisfied with the automated responses.

“When used in the right way, AI can foster more meaningful human interaction, and help create loyal customers who will drive greater lifetime value for your business.”

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Yajush Gupta

Yajush Gupta

Yajush is a journalist at Dynamic Business. He previously worked with Reuters as a business correspondent and holds a postgrad degree in print journalism.

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