Complaints Insight

After the event snapshot

Less than 1 in 4 consumers say that the complaints they made to large organisations last year were resolved satisfactorily.

We spent much of the first half of 2016 focusing on the challenges businesses face when handling customer dissatisfaction, and our latest research with a nationally representative sample of consumers and industry experts show there is potential to do much more. We discussed the findings of this research with a group of customer experience professionals at our recent insight event.

With 84% of consumers agreeing that a well-handled complaint makes customers more loyal to large organisations, are today’s businesses falling short when it comes to complaint handling? Our audience seemed to think so.

The need to up the game is only going to grow: 90% of 18- to 34-year-olds complained last year, compared to 85% of 35- to 54-year-olds and 78% of over 55s.

What’s going wrong?

  1. Consumers feel they are headbutting your process wall. When describing their experience of a badly handled complaint, nearly 70% said, ‘I felt like I had been pushed through a system’ and 68% said, ‘I feel like they treat all customers the same’. Companies are seeking feedback more and more, but this is not always seen as a positive. One customer commented, ‘it’s their problem, why should I invest the time?’
  2. Staff try to resolve complaints before listening. According to 49% of respondents, ‘the person handling the complaint did not listen and try to understand my issue’ and 57% said staff showed no empathy when handling the complaint. The majority even said the solution suggested was biased towards the organisation.
  3. The first point of contact (FPOC) staff are not empowered. Over half of respondents wanted to complain to the first person they spoke to, but were told to contact the complaints team. Four out of five said that everyday staff working in customer-facing roles and call centres need better training to handle complaints, pointing to an explanation of why complaint handling is not well rated by the public.
  4. With many complaints handed straight to specialists, consumers sometimes felt that ‘they never resolved the issue, they were passing the issue from department to department’. Although some evidence suggests a decline in this trend, 64% say the reason people complain to the CEO is because other staff are not empowered to help.
  5. Bribery is sometimes put before good service. A respondent told us: ‘Before I knew it, they sent flowers but it was, like, I didn’t want it to happen to anyone else.’ So while financial recompense or other gifts are unlikely to be refused by customers, it may well be that they are seeking another resolution. Only 1 in 5 say that when they complain they are seeing compensation, a fact confirmed by numerous academic studies.
  6. Driven by fear of regulators, companies can make complaints processes much more laborious than they should be. The complaints processes of large companies were described by 52% as ‘being too formal’ and 40% say social media is now the best way to complain.

Thanks to all the delegates who made this event possible and continue to help us shape our industry insight.