Many companies today are in a state of denial about the quality of the customer experience they provide. A study by Bain and Company found that while 80% of companies are confident that they deliver a superior customer experience, only about 8% of their customers believe that is true.

“Despite the millions that are spent on trying to improve the quality of the customer experience, little progress has been made,” says Colyn Dee, director of Cirrus TechVue, which represents software solutions company Aptean in South Africa. “This is most likely because companies are focusing on the wrong things.”

Dee adds that the problem has been compounded by social media, which has turned into a powerful revenge tool for angry customers. “With public opinion having been made stronger than ever in the Internet economy, it’s critical that companies listen to their customers.”

At management level, he says, you may only see complaints which are escalated. It is probable that the front-line people receive and often resolve many more similar problems on first contact.
“This is useful, but you are still missing out on all the priceless feedback your customers are giving you for free,” says Dee. “Without a proper system in place to track and manage all complaints, you won’t know that the same issue comes up time and again. That also means you don’t have an opportunity to change something to prevent it from happening again.”

This is because without a proper system, front-line people don’t have a way to capture information in a consistent manner. When they do anything, it is in a non-structured method which cannot be analysed.

With an appropriate system, Dee says, front-line people follow a predefined process. “This enables them to capture the contact information, the product or service involved, and the nature of the complaint. Next, they can either resolve the complaint immediately or escalate it to the right person or department.

“With the technology in place, the responsible person is alerted by email, and the clock starts,” says Dee. “The resolution process is driven by a series of tasks with associated SLAs to acknowledge the complaint within a specified time-frame, collect and attach all evidence to the case (Emails, claim forms, recorded phone calls, and more), the case is investigated within a specified time-frame, and a written resolution is sent to the customer. With standard document templates in place, all communication is professional, clear and correct. In addition, root cause analysis allows you to spot trends and highlights.”

Technology a must for TCF compliance
With the Financial Services Board (FSB) implementing Treating Customers Fairly (TCF), an outcomes based regulatory and supervisory approach, onsite inspections will most likely target how companies are managing complaints, with root cause analysis coming to the fore. “This process is exactly what was followed in the UK when TCF was implemented, companies that did not comply with the rules were heavily fined,” says Matt Keenan, vice president, CRM Product Group, Aptean.

“Inspections will require that all information, including complainants, products or services, and all evidence regarding complaints, is made immediately available to them. This will be burdensome on companies unless they have invested in technology to centrally manage customer complaints and other feedback. Keenan points to the success of Aptean’s complaint management software Respond in this regard: “By centralising the management of all complaints, Respond ensures that customers are treated fairly and consistently and the FCA regulations are fully complied with.”

Companies need to appreciate negative feedback and use it to show appreciation to the customer for telling you about their experience, acknowledging that a mistake was made, apologising, correcting the situation, and working to ensure that it never happens again, says Dee. “It’s only through appropriate customer support that you can turn a dire experience around,” he says.