Thanks for the Complaint – 4 Tips for Jaw-Dropping Customer Experience Fixes

I’m not a fan of the line,

“a customer complaint is a gift.”

I understand the research that supports that utterance (as few as 4% of upset customers complain directly to a business representative).

However, the gifts I want to receive come from positive experiences.  Those gifts are loyalty and referrals – not complaints.

Accordingly, I view complaints as “opportunities,” and our response to them should be our gift to our customers.

Let’s look at how “world-class” experience providers give that gift of responsiveness.  I will use The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company (the focus of my book The New Gold Standard ) as my example.

1) Reward Complaints – Diana Oreck, former vice president of global learning and The Ritz-Carlton Leadership Center, noted: “We want people to report breakdowns, so we can build solutions to remove them from our hotels – not just sweep them under the rug.  As such, we’ve taken the stigma out of complaints so we can reliably track defects and make the necessary corrections.”  Ritz-Carlton leaders create a blame-free culture that rewards and recognizes team members who track “MR. BIV” (an acronym for Mistakes, Rework, Breakdowns, Inefficiencies, and Variations).

2) Solve the Immediate Problem – Diana added,Our approach to MR. BIV is consistent with research that shows if you handle a problem quickly and well, you might get a more loyal guest than if there were no problem at all.”  Please note two keywords in Diana’s observation – solving the problem “quickly and well.”

3) Fix Root Causes – Former Ritz-Carlton CEO Simon Cooper observed that the “accurate collection of breakdowns, swift analysis of trends, and resolution of process problems is fundamental to give a guest a Wow experience.  For example, a huge chasm occurs when a guest does not have a good arrival process… or is given a room key that doesn’t work.  When these breakdowns occur, it’s hard to get to a place where we will have an engaged guest.  The only way across the chasm over the long term is to know what goes wrong and make it right at the root cause.”

4) Collect, Compile & Communicate Quality Issues – Often, leaders and managers are distant from broken customer processes.  To be effective, leaders must collect quality data from their people, analyze the data for trends, and communicate with frontline team members to remedy customer frustrations.  Senior managers are most effective when they perform “the 3C’s”: collect, compile, and communicate quality performance data.

By destigmatizing breakdowns, your employees will record shortcomings and take responsibility for product quality.

By tracking complaint data, you can improve processes & elevate the customer experience. That, in turn, frees staff to meet the stated and unstated needs of your customers. Through this virtuous cycle you will produce the best gift you can give to your customers – loyalty-building experiences!

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Joseph A. Michelli, Ph.D. is a professional speaker and chief experience officer at The Michelli Experience. A New York Times #1 bestselling author, Dr. Michelli and his team consult with some of the world’s best customer experience companies.

Follow on Twitter: @josephmichelli

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