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How to Implement a Customer Complaint Resolution Process that Actually Works

Once just an afterthought for many businesses, delivering a great customer experience (CX) has become a primary goal. And with good reason: Research from Bain & Company shows a superior CX can drive revenue growth at a rate 4-8% higher than the industry average. American Express has found that seven in 10 consumers will spend more money with a business with a great CX.

Business man trying to recover customer experience for on demand customer care

But when it comes to providing a superior customer experience, one aspect that’s often left out of the conversation is the importance of having an effective customer complaint resolution process. After all, offering a great CX means offering a positive experience at every touchpoint, including during those times when someone walks away from a transaction feeling less than satisfied.

And, let’s face it, those experiences are inevitable. Even with the best CX efforts in place, every now and then something will happen to give a customer cause to complain, justified or not. These may be factors beyond your control, like a shipment that was delayed by a third-party delivery service, or an instance when a customer simply misunderstood the terms of the transaction.

But even if you’re not at fault, you’ll still have to deal with the complaint—and it’s essential to do so in a way that satisfies the unhappy customer. Getting it right gives you a good probability of salvaging the relationship. According to data from Glance Networks, “70% of unhappy customers whose issues were resolved in their favor said they would return to purchase from that company again.”

That means that, for every complaint you receive, you have a better than two-in-three shot of keeping that customer. And that’s a goal worth pursing, given that customer loyalty is a key driver for most businesses: As Amy Gallo points out at the Harvard Business Review, it’s five to 25 times more expensive to acquire a new customer as it is to retain an existing one.

In other words, putting in the work to make your customer complaint resolution process as effective and efficient as possible can really pay off. And there’s a formula for doing so, too, made up of five important points.


5 Key Factors for a Customer Complaint Resolution Process

#1: The customer is always right. Okay, it’s a cliché—and, yes, we know, it’s not always true. Yet the best possible mindset for creating a customer complaint resolution process that actually works is to treat your customers like they’re always right.


customer getting a recovery process resolution

When you create a customer resolutions process you treat the customer like they’re always right.


It’s particularly important to adopt this attitude when confronted by customers who show frustration or anger. Don’t get defensive or combative; avoid arguing. Instead, listen carefully while they air their grievances. This is akin to “killing them with kindness”—another cliché, but one that works. If you treat complaining customers with unrelenting kindness, you’ll eventually wear down their anger.

If you treat complaining customers with unrelenting kindness, you’ll eventually wear down their anger.

And there really isn’t any other option here. If you react to anger with anger, your odds of coming out ahead are slim to none. In a clash between an angry customer and an equally angry (or sarcastic) business rep, the public will almost always take the customer’s side, even if they don’t necessarily agree with the position. Getting into a war of words is rarely a fight you can win—an especially important lesson in the age of social media, where altercations are often visible for the whole world to see.

Don’t pass the blame; accept responsibility. It doesn’t matter who was originally at fault, or whether the customer’s complaint is unfounded. That’s in the past: What matters now is making it clear that you’re willing to do what it takes to make amends, as quickly as possible. That attitude alone will go far toward ensuring that an angry customer stays with you instead of jumping ship for the competition.

#2: Agree on a solution. While you’re listening to customers’ complaints, try to focus on the aspects that will help bring about a satisfactory resolution. Encourage them to share as much information as possible about what went wrong and ask them to describe exactly where the process failed them. The goal is to get the insight you need not only to offer an effective resolution, but also to avoid similar situations in the future.


 man filling out a survey about the on demand customer service experience

Allow your customers to share with you about their experience. With this information you will learn which situations to avoid.


Do whatever you can to agree on a resolution during the customer’s initial encounter. Ask questions, such as:

  • “How can we make this right?”
  • “What would be an acceptable solution to you?”

If they’re not sure, propose solutions.

Bear in mind that reaching a solution, and implementing it immediately, will usually require not just a thorough understanding of your business, but also the authority to make decisions without moving the customer up the chain of management. One of the worst things you can do during the complaint resolution process is shuffle the customer off to another party. Customers are much more likely to be satisfied when the first person they speak with has the means to rectify their problems.

Therefore, the team that fields customer complaints should be knowledgeable about your business processes and empowered to make decisions. Team members should also have the expertise to understand what can and can’t be done, so you don’t wind up making promises you can’t keep.

#3: Take action—and do it fast. Once you’ve come to an agreement on how to correct the situation that led to the complaint, it’s important to waste no time in actually fulfilling your side of the bargain. Ideally, the problem should be solved instantly—by providing a statement credit, for instance, or getting a replacement product sent out while still you’re still on the phone with the customer.


Business people talking about taking action plan immediately after a bad experience occurred

It is very important to take immediate action on what was planned out for a good customer service recovery.


If the solution can’t be solved instantly, it’s still important to keep the customer in the loop while the situation plays out. Make contact right after the call to show you’re working on the request. Reach out again once the solution is underway. Fail to do so and you risk frustrating the customer all over again, as well as wasting the time and work you’ve already put into resolving the complaint.

#4. Follow up, and say thanks. Even if the nature of the problem was one that you’re able to solve instantly, don’t forget to follow up after a suitable amount of time has gone by—ideally, within a day or two, but no longer than a week. Ensure the resolution has met the customer’s needs and that he is fully satisfied with the results.


customer receiving a phone call from contact center solutions

To seal the deal make sure that the customer follow up, say thank you and make sure there was a full recovery.


And, when you do this, take the opportunity to thank the customer, too, for helping you make your service better. Emphasize how happy you are to have the business. Let the customer know it’s important to you, and that you’re willing to go the extra mile. This little bit of kindness will go a long way to turning an angry customer into a life-long brand advocate.

#5. Learn from the experience. Finally, when you do follow up, let the customer know the feedback has helped you not only to resolve a specific complaint, but also to improve your business as a whole. Make sure the customer understands that you’ve corrected whatever caused the problem, so there’s no worry about experiencing it again. (Nor will any customers he could potentially refer to you.)

Of course, it’s important to actually make these improvements. Even aspects of your business that seem beyond your control can often be upgraded. For instance, outages caused by severe weather can be prevented by improving your business continuity plan. Errors caused by third-party providers can be corrected by finding the right partners to deliver better service.
Ultimately, then, the customer complaint resolution process is a learning experience: It provides valuable insight into the real customer experience you offer, which is often hard to fully appreciate from your perspective. In other words, it gives you an important chance to correct problems and implement improvements that you may not have known about otherwise.


We Can Help You Create a Customer Complaint Resolution Process That Works

If this all sounds like more than you’re about (or willing) to handle, we can help. With more than 20 years of experience providing industry-leading customer care solutions, Working Solutions specializes in helping businesses like yours offer a great experience for customers. That includes putting in place a complaint resolution process to actually improve your business.

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