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Guest Blogger

Simon Johnson, General Manager UK, Freshworks

Last month, Which? revealed the results of its annual survey that ranks the best and worst brands in the UK for customer service.

While the top-ranking brands were from a mix of industries – including a bank, bookshop and a supermarket – airlines, telecoms and energy providers came out worst overall. And while these companies were lowest ranked for several reasons, there is an interesting common denominator – they all have poor form when it comes to dealing with customer complaints.

According to Which? three out of five BT users said the company was poor at handling complaints, while seven in ten utility customers admitted to having a negative experience when they speak to staff about an issue

This begs the question: why, in a time when there are so many ways companies can interact with customers, and vast amounts of data available on consumer preferences, are such big brands struggling to handle complaints in the UK?

Importance of managing complaints

There are two main reasons why businesses should care about, track and manage complaints; to prevent churn and stop negative word-of-mouth.

Today, customers will rarely hesitate before switching to an alternative solution when they aren’t getting the best possible experience. Complaints must be handled diligently, with the right amount of care and attention to detail to prevent losing customers. In the age of social media and online reviews, negativity can spread like wildfire. Any customer complaint that is not well handled can have serious backlash.

So, where are brands going wrong and what should they be doing when it comes to complaint management?

Automate tasks for quicker resolution

As consumers get used to instant gratification, slow service and a lack of omnichannel support are key reasons for complaints. If a person has a problem that needs the attention of a customer service agent, the chances are something has gone wrong – and a customer is going to be even more unsatisfied if they are asked to wait a long time before their complaint is addressed or worst, even acknowledged.

There is an abundance of solutions available to help brands automate the process of complaint management by categorising, prioritising and assigning customer feedback. Automation can help support agents resolve issues much faster and in a more streamlined manner. It can also save time by adding pre-set canned responses to handle frequently reported issues.

Deliver support across channels

If a brand is providing customer support across multiple platforms such as email, phone, chat, and social media, customers expect contextual replies. For example, if a user contacts your company’s Twitter handle to complain, they will expect your support team to already have context about the issue, especially if it has been a reoccurring problem and something they’ve complained about before.

Collaboration systems should be put in place to ensure that, regardless of which channel a customer uses to complain, customer service agents have access to all previous correspondence to ensure there are no lapses in communication before responding.

In addition, while facilitating an omnichannel experience is important, if brands choose to have several channels (website, email, phone, Twitter etc.) they must all be well maintained by customer support staff. Each network should be regularly checked for customer queries and complaints. It is better to have a few channels providing an excellent service, than many offering a poor service due to lack of capacity.

Provide self-service resources

Some customers, especially younger generations, prefer to troubleshoot problems themselves, rather than contact customer support for every minor criticism. If they do not find appropriate self-service resources on a company’s website, the chances are they’ll complain – or take their business elsewhere.

Organisations should ensure that there is a range of collateral available on their websites such as solution articles, video guides and FAQs. This way, companies are also freeing up their agent’s time enabling them to handle more complex queries. Chat bots and live chat functions that pop up to offer help are also great for giving customers near instant responses to their queries and complaints.

Action customer feedback

When customers give feedback, they want it to be taken seriously and expect the company to be prompt in both responding and implementing fixes and updates. On top of this, companies can gain customer trust by responding to customer feedback and incorporating it into new products and services.

Tools are available to provide companies with detailed insights into how well their support teams are performing, as well as analyse the category of complaints they’re receiving – whether they’re about the service, product, delivery and so on. This helps identify bottlenecks that are hampering the efficiency of the support process and allows all customer feedback to be taken into consideration, actioned and improve a company’s offering.

Every time there’s a customer complaint, it’s crucial that support teams work to turn into an opportunity, to win them over and earn their loyalty. There are so many tools available for the likes of automation, collaboration, social media integration – that no brand should leave customers feeling ‘undervalued’.