Why Do Companies Turn Service Conversation into Complaints?

Why does a simple service conversation about something that went wrong get turned into a formal complaint? As a customer, you may have felt forced into speaking to a specialist complaint handler because nobody else had the skills and power to help you.

We may never want or need to escalate a service conversation, as we know that companies can’t please us all the time (even though we secretly want them to) – so why do they create a process that means we have no choice but to complain?

It is hard to understand why a company would sabotage a perfectly normal and healthy service conversation and actively turn it into a complaint, but it happens all the time. There are six fundamental reasons behind this:

#1 We are headbutting your process wall

If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck, right? Well, not always. It’s not our fault if this particular contact fits your business description of a complaint. Your internal process is directing us down the complaints dead end and now we feel like we’re banging our heads against your process wall.

#2 We don’t feel that you are really listening to what we need

We tell you what our concern is, and we describe the kind of service we need right now, and yet you are inflexible in your support. This means we have to power up this chat and transform into complaint mode in order to be heard. As customers, we are not all looking for the same resolution. We need you to listen to us as individuals and respond in the right way.

#3 You missed out the first time

There is a Goldilocks zone for service contact resolution. It’s usually the first try – that wonderful first-point communication where anything is still possible and you can nip it all in the bud. Even if you have messed up massively, if you fix it here and now in the way that we need you to, you can still appeal to the type of justice we are looking for and successfully class us as dealt with. But this first contact will totally backfire if you make us jump through hoops. Pass us on to other people and you lose our goodwill for good … and heaven help us all if the person you pass us to has no idea what to do with us! We may not have had a complaint at the start of the call, but now we see nothing but red.

#4 You send us to ‘the specialist’

We are empowered to talk to you. We need you to be empowered to talk to us. That’s how a real conversation should work. Otherwise we are forever wondering when we will be packed off, away from the normal interaction we are having, to speak with someone who specialises in the mysterious arts of dealing with us ‘complainants’. Then what? Are we doomed to talk to a team of people with hardened hearts who are trained to be extra nice? Whatever the tactics, the new context you have created has escalated the conversation and we now feel that we are in a situation where we have to behave in accordance to your response.

#5 Bribery instead of service

Other than the fact that we sometimes like money, what can you learn about our needs if your first line reaction is to pay us to shut up and go away? That’s like changing a lightbulb with a hammer. No more lightbulb, no more light either. What happens next time we have a similar service issue? Your data will reveal that we like money, and little else. This isn’t technically customer service, it’s flat out bribery. You are paying for our time when what we really want is for this to not happen.

#6 Service driven by fear of regulation

While we are having a conversation about the service you provide, we don’t want to feel that you are thinking about the requirements of somebody else. We understand that you are accountable to bodies like the FCA and need to make our dissatisfaction reportable. But your fear of regulation can kill our conversation dead when it causes you to over-report even minor cases that are often simple service requests.

As a customer, we just want you to talk to us. We need to trust that you can support us brilliantly on those rare and special occasions when we so desperately need you to be our hero and save the day.

If you would like to learn how Imparta’s programmes could help your service teams, please contact us today.

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