Turn Lemons into Lemonade: Customer Complaints into Opportunities

Posted by Erin Smith

In the past, studies have shown that an unhappy customer tells between 10 and 100 others about their negative experience. But now, the Internet provides unhappy customers with the opportunity to express their dissatisfaction with a product or service with millions of people. In a matter of seconds, an angry customer can tell the world of his problems.

How does your organization handle disgruntled customers? When a customer complains, it gives organizations the chance to improve their business and show their customers that they are important.

Here are 3 steps to manage customer complaints:

Have a complaint tracking process – Complaint tracking is used to capture, monitor, and analyze customer complaints in order to retain customers. Regardless of the tool you use to gather this information, the goal is to track customer complaints and follow closely developed processes and procedures for managing them. For one of our client programs, we provide technical support and customer service in support of our client’s home-use medical devices. We built, and now manage, a multi-channel case management system, with automated alerts based on key data inputs, and driven by pre-defined business rules. These automated alerts are set to notify our client's repair and product quality assurance personnel when complaints reach a specific threshold, or when a complaint includes certain key words that may indicate a personal injury or property damage situation. Our system allows these alerts to be e-mailed or text-messaged to client personnel for immediate resolution and attention.

Analyze the complaints – Once you’ve tracked the complaints, it’s time to analyze trends and look for root causes. Make appropriate investments to prevent issues from occurring again. This shows that you are listening to the customer and making process improvements based on the feedback that they provide.

HGS has partnered with a leading consumer packaged goods company since 2009. For this client, we provide inbound calls, email, and white mail contacts, fulfillment, social media listening and customer care, and Research & Insights (R&I). As experts on this program and their brand, our dedicated R&I analysts are part of the Consumer Affairs team, working closely with quality, plant, brand, and marketing managers to provide plant quality reporting, executive scorecards, new or changed product reports, and voice of the consumer analytics, including trends and business intelligence.

Our integration into this client’s Consumer Affairs team has been crucial to partnership success, with established relationships between the dedicated R&I analysts and the client’s plant, brand, quality, and marketing managers. In a recent scenario, the R&I analysts identified negative sentiment about a newly launched product, provided that information back to the client, which quickly resulted in a product recipe change that delighted consumers. Our reports have resulted in changes to packaging, flavoring of product, and distribution of ingredients to create a better customer experience.

Make appropriate changes – Once you’ve tracked and analyzed the complaints, it’s time to make changes. One of our clients is a large fast food chain with over 14,000 restaurants in the US. We work with them to address two primary business needs: 1) to recover the customer in the event a negative restaurant experience occurred and 2) to gather specific information to provide data and insights to help drive successful operation and growth of their business. Our efforts at HGS provide them with the ability to recover customers’ business before they are lost to the competition.

Our customer recovery process directly impacts the likelihood of return visits to our clients’ stores by their most critical customers. Because of this, 74% of the franchises Owner/Operators are able to make personal connections with their most dissatisfied customers and do what it takes to win them back.

In the past six years, we have represented our client to more than six million of their customers and the data recorded by the HGS team from these encounters are analyzed and shared with multiple business units within our clients’ headquarters to improve the customer experience, whether it be menu changes/offerings or operational enhancements.

Bill Gates said it best "Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning." In a world where “customer is king” businesses have to be proactive when it comes to customer complaints to retain customers and provide superior customer service.


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