The Futurum Group's Statement on Israel

Managing Customer Complaints Effectively and Efficiently

Deal with Issues, Even Those Resulting from Customer Ignorance, Quickly and with Empathy

Managing customer complaints

Even when an organization has taken a proactive and thoughtful approach to delivering an excellent experience, there are bound to be customer complaints. These complaints can be centered on the failure of a product or service to live up to the customer’s expectations, excessive customer effort, or dissatisfaction with a company policy, staff issues, or, in some cases, unhappiness or objections to a real or imagined corporate position or stance on a specific issue.

Smart organizations realize that delivering a good CX also includes responding appropriately to complaints, even those that may simply be born of frustration, misunderstanding, or even ignorance, on the part of a customer.

When a customer lodges a complaint, there are several steps that should be utilized to demonstrate that the organization is both listening to that complaint and valuing the customer or prospect that has raised the issue.

  • Act with urgency: Nothing frustrates a customer more than feeling like the company does not care enough about their issue. Not responding quickly is a sure-fire way of further angering a customer and setting the organization for an uphill battle to regain a customer’s goodwill.
  • Acknowledge the problem: Many customer problems and complaints are not the fault of the company or organization. Nonetheless, organizations should demonstrate that they have empathy for the customer’s situation, simply by acknowledging that they understand the customer is upset. This demonstrates that the organization is treating the customer as a valued asset.
  • Apologize for the problem:  Even if the problem is not technically the organization’s fault, apologizing to the customer that they are having an issue at all underscores the organization’s commitment to demonstrating empathy for the customer’s current situation.
  • Address the problem: Customers want to know that organizations are ready and willing to address the complaint. While the resolution may not always result in the customer’s favor, organizations need to demonstrate that they are willing to listen to the customer’s story, and then show that they are willing to try to work out a solution to the problem.
  • Accept accountability: Organizations need to demonstrate that they own the problem, even if they are not at fault. In essence, smart organizations should demonstrate that they are willing to try to solve the problem, regardless of who may be at fault or when it happened. By demonstrating accountability, a customer will see that the organization values him or her, rather than simply valuing a transaction.

For associates to apply these steps, it is often helpful to have specific tactics in place to guide them through the process of addressing customer complaints. These can be adapted for each specific situation (e.g. via a contact center, social media interaction, or in person), and should be guided by specific policies that have been agreed upon by all relevant stakeholders.

Craft a sequential script

A call script that is geared toward addressing customer complaints can help guide agents through the various steps and checklists necessary to arrive at a resolution, while demonstrating the proper level of empathy to customers.

Emphasis transparency

Agents should explain the entire complaint resolution process to the customer, including justifying each step (which includes explaining why a call must be transferred or escalated), and clearly opening and sharing a complaint ticket that the customer can refer to in the event they are disconnected or needs to follow up on later. Emphasizing transparency demonstrates that the organization has a process in place to handle complaints, and the complaint is being addressed by the appropriate department and staff.

Empower agents to resolve issues

A key point of frustration among many customers is that it takes many steps and the intervention of many people to resolve a complaint. This can impact the overall experience with the organization, reducing customer satisfaction and ultimately driving customers into the arms of a competitor.

One approach worth considering is empowering frontline agents to resolve issues without asking for permission or escalating the issue to higher ups. For example, Ritz-Carlton allows any of their employees to give up $2,000 to resolve a customer complaint, without asking permission from a supervisor. This results in higher levels of satisfaction for guests, and results in better employee satisfaction, since they are elevated to decision makers, and can actively participate in the overall success of the company.

Further, the organization saves a considerable amount of labor and headaches dealing with these types of smaller issues, instead of needing to escalate issues that would eat up other employee’s time and efforts. Most importantly, employee empowerment can reduce the overall handling time for the complaint, and in many cases, may further drive satisfaction levels.

Leverage real-time engagement monitoring for analysis

Real-time engagement monitoring permits a supervisor, more experienced colleague or even an artificial intelligence (AI) bot to quickly enter a thorny or heated conversation. This can help defuse tension, and ensure that personal dynamics do not impact the customer’s overall experience.

Employing an AI algorithm to review and analyze interactions can also be used to further categorize the complaints received, the solutions offered by the company, and the ultimate resolution of the problem, thereby helping to identify root causes of customer dissatisfaction and reduce similar complaints in the future.

Author Information

Keith has over 25 years of experience in research, marketing, and consulting-based fields.

He has authored in-depth reports and market forecast studies covering artificial intelligence, biometrics, data analytics, robotics, high performance computing, and quantum computing, with a specific focus on the use of these technologies within large enterprise organizations and SMBs. He has also established strong working relationships with the international technology vendor community and is a frequent speaker at industry conferences and events.

In his career as a financial and technology journalist he has written for national and trade publications, including BusinessWeek,, Investment Dealers’ Digest, The Red Herring, The Communications of the ACM, and Mobile Computing & Communications, among others.

He is a member of the Association of Independent Information Professionals (AIIP).

Keith holds dual Bachelor of Arts degrees in Magazine Journalism and Sociology from Syracuse University.


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