Monday, July 11, 2005

Customer ComPlains....

It is natural human tendency to complain. We do not have any qualms in complaining, as long as we are on the "giving" sites, but it vexes us and spoils our day, when we get on the "listening" side of the complaints. Be it Employee Relations for the HR or Appraisals in the Corporate world, Complaints are a natural way to give and get Feedback in any sector.
In the Marketing world, the feedback is classified into "Customer Complaints" and is a source of some of the major Marketing decisions.
Most of the Customers are apprehensive of the complaints being addressed, and that is why, most of us end up as Disinterested Customers.
But there is a proportion of us who want things to improve, who think that our feedback counts.
Believe me, it DOES! and that is the very premise of this entry - Communicating the Negative Perception and Feedback to the Marketers...

How to appease the Customer to GIVE feedback is another story altogether, but right now, let me typify the Complaints given by the Customers. I read this classification in a book/article almost 2 years back, the name of which I do not remember right now unfortunately. But, I am hopeful that the author would read this entry one day and apprise me of his identity. Then, I shall give him his due regards and credit :)

Broadly, Complaints are classified into 6 types -
(1) Informative
In such a type of complaint, the Customer is dissatisfied with the services/product, but either it is too late to change things or fix them, or he is not hopeful of any remedial action. Typically, such a complaint is about a small issue.

(2) Corrective
In a Corrective type, the Customer expects corrective action, often immediately. No compensation is required in such a complaint, but the only thing that he expects is expediting the corrective procedures in addressing the complaiint. Promptness of the resolution is the key in this case.

(3) Experience
When a customer reports an Experience-type complaint, it is difficult to judge what he wants from the organization. He just narrates his experience, often with a negative perspective. The best solution in such a scenario is to listen to the customer, and then reclassify the complaint into one of the other 5 types!

(4) Unsatisfied
In this case, both Corrective Action, as well as Compensation is demanded. Corrective action for the complaint and the problems caused, expecting Remedial Action promptly. Compensation for devoting his energy and taking out time to tell you, thereby showing that he cares about your business. That's why he deserves to be awarded and compensated accordingly. The compensation need not be monetary, but can be provided to him in terms of discounts/offers/gift vouchers, coupled with positive and thankful gestures!

(5) Societal
This is a more severe complaint in contrast to the previous ones. In such a complaint, the Customer expects that some 'punitive' action is taken, along with compensation in lieu of the loss incurred to him. He ALSO expects an Apology from the Service Providers/Suppliers. This form is a more severe extension of the "Unsatisfied" type of Customer.

(6) Conflict
This is the most severe stage of Complaints. The Customer has had enough of it, becomes an enemy of the organization, either explicitly or implicitly, and poses to be a major problem for the Organization. In such a case, there is little that one can do to appease him. The Best solution in this case is to escalate the issues and concerns to the Senior Management for a resolution or Containment.

Then, we have the Modes of Complaining.
The customer can complain in either the Informal mode or the Formal Mode.

In the Informal mode, the complaints are either
- orally delivered to the front-line executives, or
- one level above the exectives.
- It can also be delivered via a short e-mail.

In the Formal mode, the Complaints are conveyed
- orally in a face-to-face situation, one or two levels above the front-line executives. In this case, the terms are dictated by the customer.
- in a written format, to the middle-level management
- on the phone, to the supervisor or the customer Service Manager.

So, next time, first classify the Complaint, understand the mode, and then listen to what he is saying ;-)
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