10 guidelines for effective complaint resolution

10 guidelines for effective complaint resolution

From a procedural perspective we offer ten guidelines for effective complaint resolution:

  1. Act fast to rectify the problem and restore the customer’s sense of satisfaction
  2. Admit mistakes but don’t be defensive
  3. Show that you understand the problem from the customer’s point of view
  4. Don’t argue with customers
  5. Acknowledge the customer’s feelings
  6. Give customers the benefit of the doubt
  7. Clarify with customers the steps needed to solve the problem
  8. Keep customers informed of what is being done to rectify the situation
  9. Consider compensation
  10. Persevere in regaining the customer’s goodwill
Tools to monitor service quality and enable effective service recovery include:
  • Flowcharting (organizational perspective) and Blueprinting (customer perspective)
  • Control charts which display performance over time against specific quality criteria
  • The Fishbone Diagram (See Figure 5.10 in the text), which is essentially a cause-and-effect analysis that helps to locate the root cause of problems.
  • The How-How Model which, in conjunction with the Fishbone Diagram, helps to elicit solutions by employing a reiterative use of “How?”.
10 guidelines for effective complaint resolution
10 guidelines for effective complaint resolution
Implications for service organizations who wish to improve overall customer satisfaction levels

Goodwin and Virage’s study explains this phenomenon.  Customers that perceive they have low power (the perception of their own ability to influence or control the transaction) are less likely to voice complaints. 

Such encounters may resemble an employer/employee relationship and customers (like employees) may need support to express their views. 

For services that require frequent and face-to-face interaction, customers are less likely to complain because they must criticize someone they have previously interacted with (and will interact with) and with whom they have developed social bonds.  Hairdressers and doctors fall into this category.

Implications for service firms to improve satisfaction level

Implications for service firms with continuous contact and where customers perceive low power should set up strategies that facilitate and encourage legitimate complaints.  These firms can learn from complaints and help to create and keep loyal customers.


Complaint letter regarding the Shinawatra Telewiz mobile phone. And lessons learned concerning the service-recovery process and customer satisfaction

Probably the biggest lesson to learn from this complaint letter is that sometimes companies create complaint situations by over-promising and under-delivering.  Promoted product features that are inaccurate, service guarantees that have too many conditions and staff with little product knowledge add to the chances of customer dissatisfaction.  

Other lessons that can be learned:
  • Ensure procedural, interaction and outcome justice (fairness)
  • Accept responsibility
  • Respond promptly
  • Thai customers will appreciate regular information, an apology from someone of senior status, an explanation of the cause and for the company to initiate recovery.
Concluding Notes

In this article we have focused on the issue of customer complaints and service recovery: the nature, significance, and consequences of dissatisfied and complaining customers, means by which they can be treated with effectively, and benefits of doing so.

Collecting and deploying customer feedback via complaints, suggestions (and even compliments), provides a means of increasing customer satisfaction and hence customer retention.  Furthermore, it is an opportunity to get into the hearts and minds of customers, to see how they perceive an organization, and to understand more of their attitudes and behavior.

Effective service recovery

It involves two levels of commitment: from management, and from staff.  Management must frame appropriate policies, commit adequate resources and suitably empower employees in order to ensure consistent standards of service delivery and effective service recovery when things go awry; staff need to be equipped and prepared to deal with customers effectively by following the ten principles we provide.

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