It is important to understand that customers who take the time to complain and give feedback to companies about their products, services or experiences are providing them with an extremely valuable service. Although complaints can shine an unflattering light on a business, they help detect flaws and improve the quality of products and services. Just as importantly, they offer an excellent opportunity for businesses to show customers how valued they are, to impress them with an outstanding solution process, and to strengthen their loyalty.
Smart companies are serious about successful complaint management, and realize the benefits of consistently providing superior customer service as it costs five times more to acquire new customers than to retain existing ones. In today's ever-changing business environment, customer service requests are more complex and, at the same time, the demands for instant gratification are higher. Geographically distributed offices, a myriad of compliance rules, pressure to reduce costs and the ease of customer defection all contribute to the critical need to maintain great customer interactions. Moreover, a systematic approach towards customer complaint management also generates ideas for product enhancements and new products, ensuring ongoing success.
The idea of providing good customer service and having a robust complaint handling process is easy to embrace but can be tricky to implement. Most companies already have a few practices in place to handle complaints, however few run smoothly due to some common issues:
Inflexible, Outdated Systems
- The majority of businesses still operate with fragmented IT systems. To process a customer request or a complaint, agents have to access multiple systems that are not connected by a single end-to-end process.
- One part of the complaint process may be handled by a receptionist while another is handled by an investigator who may not have all details of the case. Working with a desktop cluttered with open applications greatly slows down case resolution and leads to inconsistent customer service across various communication channels.
- Growth in social media interactions and Web collaboration has added to the company communication channel mix, making it more complex. However, most businesses are not ready to provide high quality customer support through each information outlet.
- With changing consumer demands, the number and complexity of products has increased. Existing systems do not offer the flexibility and power required to stay ahead in a highly competitive environment.
Fragmented and Insufficent Information
- In the global economy, our customers, partners, and colleagues are geographically distributed, while the need for collaboration remains. The lack of common integrated systems creates information flow barriers and makes complaint investigations difficult.
- With disjointed applications and the lack of a defined case process, there is no real-time view into complaint resolution. This usually means that agents and managers only find out about service failures long after they happen.
- Poorly designed systems can cause long lag times for complaint data assembly, and analysis causing case information to lose its relevance and use in identifying issues affecting customers.
- Lack of integration with the ERP system and absence of automated information routing from one stage to the next requires manual data entry and means that employees have to spend excessive amount of time keeping the system up to date.
Lack of Analytics
- Fragmented data makes it a challenge to perform real-time meaningful analytics and monitor processes, meaning businesses do not have the capability to avert service failures.
- Firms are assessing the cause of individual complaints, but without robust analytic tools, system-wide root causes cannot be determined or fixed.
- Existing applications may only provide basic reports that are insufficient for conducting trending analysis and driving preventive measures.
- Companies conduct client surveys, but do not effectively employ the information that they receive to improve customer service or complaint handling.
Inconsistent Complaint Handling
- Adding new communication channels may lead to inconsistent customer service across various client interactions, especially when existing channels are already fragmented. Many companies are also experiencing difficulties in integrating social tools and SMS interactions.
- The lack of interaction from complaint handling departments to management or other parts of the business makes learning from customers nearly impossible.
- Poorly staffed call centers, usually due to budget cuts, make it difficult and frustrating for customers to register a complaint.
- The lack of clearly published complaint processes and procedures leads to inconsistent decision making, reflecting too much subjectivity by case handlers.
Changing Business Environment
- Continuous changes in political, economic, and social factors require organizations to adapt rapidly. Without a strong complaint management solution, companies have difficulty implementing changes quickly in order to stay competitive.
- While technological advances may enable cost reductions and process automation, integrating these is challenging with outdated or unsupported systems.
- Failure to provide timely reports or follow compliance standards leads to missed market opportunities or hefty fines from regulatory agencies.
- Meeting consumer demands, effectively analyzing data, and scaling operations up or down is an increasing challenge with legacy systems.
In order to overcome these common issues and begin managing complaints for success of the business, organizations can employ a discipline called dynamic case management (DCM). DCM brings together information, processes and people utilizing a mixed set of controls that are human and system driven. The following elements in a dynamic complaint management system are already helping companies resolve common issues in complaint handling:
Process Management: It's impossible to predict every type of complaint situation or to program a system for all future scenarios. A DCM system will be able to manage unstructured processes and unexpected changes. The system will also adapt to the context of each customer and support process change for each role, at any time.
Compliance, Analytics, and Statistics: The complaint management system should track case processing history, allow real-time process visibility and provide powerful statistical tools and analytics. Managers should be able to review, on-demand, how and by whom a case was handled. Additionally, managers can use statistical data to continuously improve the process.
Integration: The entire complaint case management process should be handled within one system for ease-of-use. Well-integrated systems are imperative for making the agent's job easier by providing a unified interface with multiple communication channels.
Multi-Channel Support: Today, customers expect almost real-time complaint resolution and want to be able to communicate with organizations through a wide variety of channels (email, phone, SMS, mail, Web, social media). Multi-channel integration will allow agents to provide consistent high quality service through the channel that the customer most prefers.
Task Processing: Task management, when executed well, enables effective distribution of tasks to the most appropriate users based on their skill set, availability, and other manager-determined attributes. Coordinated task management adds to efficient case processing, which should also incorporate collaboration and last minute change capabilities.
Knowledge Management: Integrating the organization's knowledge throughout the complaint resolution process will allow the system to adapt and offer the needed information at the right time to make agents more effective. Utilizing multiple sources, the system should provide contextual information according to situational changes.
Complete Customer View: A 360 degree view of each customer, including past interactions, in a single user interface, will provide agents with critical information to quickly and efficiently resolve complaints. Additionally, knowing the customer and the problem is essential for providing outstanding customer service.
Utilizing best practices and built for continuous change, DCM solutions combine core business process management and enterprise content management with predictive analytics, business rules, and social collaboration to improve complaint case outcomes while optimizing productivity and managing risk. DCM is a rapidly growing category with solutions that have made a huge difference in the cost structure and feasibility of addressing customer complaints head on. Many organizations in a range of industries have already benefited from and continue to successfully employ DCM solutions today. At the same time, even more businesses predict their switch to more agile and cost-efficient systems in the near future.
Glen Schrank is the CEO of Eccentex, a company that provides value to customers in the growing DCM market serving all industries including financial, government, and healthcare.