Proper Complaint Management as an Opportunity for Company Success: Tips & Tricks

August 4th at 2:41pm by Susan Levermann

A company‘s success is largely governed by the satisfaction of its customers.

If one compares a company‘s story with a movie, the customers often occupy several roles; they are buyers, opinion-formers and multipliers all-in-one and thus actively co-write the metaphorical script. Their feedback determines whether the production is a box office hit or a flop.

Clever companies have long since discovered this for themselves: They give their clients main billing in the company „film“. That’s because they recognize the valuable treasure that an honest customer carries within them - even if this treasure is deeply buried and not always easy to recover. Few customers are willing to share their opinions publicly. According to 1st Financial Training Services, only four percent of all dissatisfied customers actually let off steam and take the effort to complain. This also means 96 percent prefer to either complain privately or end their business relationship after a negative experience. Online critics justify their hesitant mockery with their distrust of the companies involved, and they do not expect a response to their complaint. They are not entirely wrong: according to a survey of over 1,000 consumers by Maritz Research, only 20 percent of all complaining consumers receive feedback on their criticism.

Wanted: Complaints - Why Customer Feedback is Ever More Important for Companies

Whether it's poor advice, unfriendly staff, defective products, dissatisfying exchange processes or long waiting times on the phone, there can be many reasons to complain. With the help of customer feedback, companies are able to improve their service or products and thus generate even more sales. But how can a company motivate dissatisfied customers to vent their anger? And how can customer complaints help turn the company film into a summer blockbuster, complete with happy ending?

Clever companies rely on Complaint Management and actively demand Customer Feedback

Complaint Management - What is it?

Clearly defined complaint management helps answer these questions. Complaint management is a wondertool - like a barometer, it can announce approaching storms, like a compass it helps you navigate through stormy waters, and like a lighthouse it provides orientation to safer shores. Complaint management gives your company the methods needed to deal with customer complaints. When the relationship with the customer is strained, professional complaint management can pour oil on troubled waters and reconnect the customer to the company. Companies can thus learn from mistakes and prevent new ones occurring.

Openness and the Willingness to Engage in Dialogue - Prerequisites for a Successful Complaint Management Process

Proactively asking instead of passively waiting:

Successful complaint management does not just wait for complaints to come in, but contacts the customer in advance. The tasks of complaint management are to actively demand praise and criticism on certain topics. This procedure is called complaint stimulation. The customer feels included and taken seriously. In this way, complainants and opinion leaders can easily and quickly enter into dialogue without having to waste valuable time researching how to get in touch.

Be accessible to the customer - quantitatively and qualitatively:

It's especially frustrating for a buyer when feedback channels can’t be found, or carefully written e-mails run into sand. Whether complaint software, telephone hotline or questionnaire: feedback channels should be offered wherever the customer is to be found. This can be in a company's reception area or on the website at the end of an online order. A QR code can show the way to the complaint form at the touch of a button and saves the feedback provider time and effort

Feedback tools also have an expiration date: Each complaint management tool should move with the times and be adapted to the needs of the customer. Modern feedback signals to the customer that a company is up-to-date and attaches importance to a professional customer dialogue.

How Proper Complaint Management Strengthens Company Goals

Turn a shitstorm into the goose which lays the golden egg: the phone rings off the hook, complaint emails fill the mailbox, angry comments drown the Facebook page and all this at the end of a long day. What initially sounds like overtime and stress saves time in the long run. This is because groaning customers provide information about where things are going wrong in the company. They highlight errors and weaknesses and thus reveal valuable growth potential. The customer takes their valuable time and shares their experience with the company – and all this for free. For successful quality management and controlling, this knowledge is worth its weight in gold. With every piece of feedback received, the company gets the chance to...

  • identify planning and product defects,
  • optimize products and services,
  • improve processes and procedures within the company,
  • prevent errors and reduce them in a targeted manner, as well as
  • assess, narrow down and thus reduce costs in a more targeted manner.

This benefits not only the current customer, but also all future customers. If the company was able to find a solution to this issue, customer satisfaction usually increases. The relationship with the customer gains depth and trust. In this way, dissatisfied customers can develop into particularly loyal customers who, as a multiplier, report positively on the company and its solution.

Successful complaint management can thus also contribute to the achievement of the company's goals and increase the company's success, as it…

  • either improves customer satisfaction or maintains it at a high level, reflected in a high Net Promoter Score,
  • actively strengthens the corporate image and improves the referral rate and, as a result,
  • increases the purchase rate, confirms the company's competitiveness and, often, expands it.

Complaint management is quality management. It should thus be anchored in the corporate culture and supported by corporate management as part of marketing.

Correct Complaint Handling

Complaints can pop up out of nowhere and wreak havoc in a company. Speed and flexibility are required in order to survive the ensuing thunderstorm as unscathed as possible. The most effective way to increase customer satisfaction is to respond quickly to complaints. To help the sun shine again as quickly as possible after a shitstorm, many feedback tools offer the possibility to respond to complaints in real time. Responsible employees receive messages directly on their smartphone or as a pop-up message on the desktop – assuming contact persons and responsibilities have been clearly defined in advance. In this way, they can immediately rectify defects or inform the customer about the further course of action.

Inform, But Not Too Much

According to a general study by the Department of Service Management at the Catholic University of Eichstätt-Ingolstadt, critics expect companies to respond to their complaint within a week. If it takes longer to process a customer complaint, periodic status updates can extend the dissatisfied customer's tolerance period. But here's the rub: too much information without quality content is quickly classified as impersonal by the recipient.

In general, the following rule of thumb applies: regular customers forgive small mistakes faster because they trust the company. They are more lenient, show more patience with long processing and problem-solving times than new customers.

24-hour response guarantee as a feature

As a result, more and more companies are advertising with the promise to respond to complaints within 24 hours. With this service promise, companies can not only increase the trust of their customers, but also their business success.

Walking in the Customer's Shoes: Tips for a Successful Customer Exchange

So much for theory. But in practice, much more is needed than just knowing how to operate the telephone system or the complaint software: when a disappointed customer complains, he wants to get something off his chest. Employees who sincerely treat their client with understanding and empathy can take the wind out of their sails. Listening and serenity are the door openers to a dialogue on an equal footing. After all, every complaint always has a reason. Often a friendly welcome or detailed enquiries is enough and the customer feels taken seriously. Employees, above all, should not take complaints personally or even react angrily to them.

Whether on the phone or over the Internet , it‘s not what you say, but how you say it: an individual and personal communication, in line with the corporate identity, comes across as a mass, impersonal mailing to the customer. The same applies to other communication channels. Personalized email addresses create trust. The customer does not have to send confidential data to a general address and feels that his e-mail is actually being read by a person, not an algorithm.

Six Questions on Dealing with Dissatisfied Customers

Easier said than done. Not every employee manages to deal with complaints properly right away. The following questions can serve as a checklist to keep a cool head even during heated conversations:

1. How to open a complaint conversation?

A uniform welcome consisting of the name of the employee and the company is the be-all and end-all of any customer communication. It guarantees that customers perceive the company uniformly and strengthens the company's image. Open questions about the reason for the call invite the customer to describe his topic – without any time pressure. Already in the opening interview, it is worthwhile to record and store basic data such as customer and invoice numbers. Employees can thus refer to this in further discussions. This not only saves time and repeated requests, but rather gives customers the feeling that his concern is already known and that he is therefore very well taken care of in the company.

2. How do you ease deadlocked situations?

Like a tornado, upset customers can disrupt anyone and anything in their path. Trained complaint managers have learned to breathe first, to stay with themselves and then to meet the customer openly. They actively conduct the conversation instead of reacting blindly to anger or frustration. Often a gesture of consent, a "Hmm" or a "I can understand" is enough and the dissatisfied customer calms down. By repeating important keywords and summarizing the conversation, employees signal to their customer that they are listening to him. He feels taken seriously and can relax. Often a customer shows more understanding when they know the cause of the problem. Experienced employees therefore give the customer a behind-the-scenes look at the company and explain how his problem came about.

3. How to properly record complaints?

Just as important as a sympathetic ear in the complaint management process are targeted requests from employees. Upset customers often describe their problem incompletely or forget important details. To get to the heart of the problem, employees should ask specific questions about the situation, rather than being guided by conjecture. At the end of the complaint handling, they regroup all the information and give the customer the opportunity to confirm, correct or supplement what has been said.

4. What solutions can be offered to the customer?

Once all the information has been fully collected, a solution to the problem usually presents itself. Here, too, companies should take into account the wishes and needs of the customer:

  • Does the customer want to exchange their product for another?
  • Does he want to keep his defective product, but would like a discount?
  • Should the faulty item be repaired?
  • Or would the customer like to return the goods and withdraw from the contract?

Forward-looking companies also make compromises for the sake of customer loyalty, which may result in a (short-term) financial loss. They trust that a satisfied customer will contribute to the long-term success of the company by sharing his experiences with friends and acquaintances. Many customers also appreciate being informed about the next steps in their complaint as part of complaint management. How is the exchange carried out? When will the money be refunded? Companies that involve their customers in this process also increase confidence among their buyers.

5. What is the best way to end the complaint conversation?

Attentive complaint managers inquire at the end of the conversation whether the customer has any further questions. They thank them for the conversation and wish them a nice day.

6. How do you show customers the appreciation of the company?

Responsible companies thank their customers for their feedback with a little gesture in the course of complaint management. Many customers look forward to a freebie, credit or a discount on their next purchase. Whether as a gesture of apology and reconciliation or as a reward for loyalty and effort, customers feel valued and considered.

Complaint management as a measure of quality - stations in complaint processing

How Poor Complaint Management Increases Customer Dissatisfaction

If companies succeed in applying the above tips in the best possible way, they‘ve already won half the battle. After looking at the above aspects, everyone should be aware of the importance of good complaint management for each and every company. In return, carelessness in dealing with complaints and dissatisfied customers can create lasting issues. Companies often inadvertently drop a clanger, but they can be dealt with through the use of fast and professional complaint management.

Dissatisfied customers can become angry ex-customers if ...

  • the customer waits on hold for too long
  • the customer feels like they have been "ticked off the list" or forwarded from one clerk to the next
  • the customer is treated rudely, verbally attacked or repeatedly interrupted in conversation
  • the customer is only given a brief answer
  • the employees blame the customer for the problem
  • employees downplay or contradict the customer's concerns and feelings
  • employees have lengthy discussions about the problem without offering the customer a solution to their problem
  • the customer receives no reply at all or only after many days and weeks a response to his e-mail or letter
  • employees inadequately record customer and complaint information, thereby not fully capturing the customer's problem and having to contact them again
  • employees make insincere or unrealistic promises that they cannot keep (e.g. time-wise)

What does Successful Complaint Management with zenloop Look Like?

Companies don't have to stand idly by as complaints pile up on the internet and customers switch to competitors. Instead of making vague assumptions, companies can monitor their customers' reactions online to respond individually. An important metric here is the Net Promoter Score®. It describes the probability with which a customer will continue to recommend a company, their products or services. Platforms such as zenloop’s Net Promoter System® use this value to identify reasons for emigration. In the course of the evaluation, it is possible to initiate targeted measures for customer recovery. An early warning system, so to speak, of otherwise major shocks to the company.

The Net Promoter System® Works in Three Stages

  1. It collects feedback from customers through tailor-made surveys. These are used at different customer contact points. They promise very high response rates and actionable feedback.
  2. From the collected information, the Net Promoter System® determines important data points and comments and then analyzes them. In this way, relevant trends and customer segments can be identified.
  3. Clever companies use the feedback for their quality management. With the help of the alarm system, critics can be identified. In just a few minutes, the smart labels evaluate the qualitative feedback from the critics. A critical topic can thus be forwarded to the responsible employees in real time, allowing companies to quickly and personally contact their fans and critics, regain their loyalty and encourage them to make recommendations.

Summing Up

Complaint management is an investment in the future. Companies that dismiss their customers' feedback not just as mere mockery can collect valuable information from it. When accurately targeted, this knowledge can contribute to the improvement of quality as well as strengthening customer satisfaction, their trust in the company and its offers in the long term. The task of every company is to establish an appreciative and respectful customer communication in this process, in which the customer is always in focus.


Susan Levermann

Content Marketing Manager