When will they listen?

When will they listen?

I am indebted to Susan-Jane Baiden for the topic and for many examples of poor customer service. Thank you, S-J.

Susan-Jane did NOT give me the example in Paragraph 3 below.

I am also indebted to my wife and business partner, Eliza Quek, for her stalwart thinking on the subject.

When did you last make a customer complaint either directly or by filling in one of those feedback forms everyone likes to give you? How did the company or organisation respond to your dissatisfaction? What did they say they would do – and then actually do – as a result of your effort? Did you check up and see if they had improved? Was there any follow-up at all?

As customers we are often asked to help organisations be more customer friendly. Sensible, since customers are the people most likely to know what they want. Personally, and speaking for several people close to me, we are assiduous in completing these questionnaires. We know the organisation has received our answers because within 48 hours a deluge of promotions for it arrive on our email. They captured our e-address OK, then.

Here is a quote from an email sent to a friend who flies business class with the world’s No 1 airline. She doesn’t drink alcohol. She had requested that three extra bottles of Perrier Water be put aside for her for the 13-hour flight to London.  “We cannot attend to individual customers requirements,” they said. A great way to fly indeed. And here’s the problem. Feedback sent direct or through the social media leaves them cold. They do not give a monkey’s umbrella whether their service matches their advertising promise or not. The bosses would deny that, I dare say.

In your organisation how are complaints treated? Do you have a complaints department? Scrap it. It is a shield between the customer and the company. All complaints should go to two recipients – the CEO and the person or people whose efforts are being complained about. The CEO or his EA should monitor each complaint and know its progress and its outcome.

There is much more to handling complaints of course. We live in an age of data analytics. Most organisations recognise the importance of it but few are equipped to handle it properly. Sometimes they misuse customers’ data and have to apologise for the breach. Every complaint should be analysed in detail so that those involved can personalise their services. A summary report of all complaints should be made available to the head of every department in the business. 

At present data is used to relay what the organisation can provide, not what the customer wants. Data gathering is therefore designed to serve the organisation not the customer. Useful customer data never reaches the supply source or the logistics chain. That is how requests go unfulfilled. When a business and first class plane full of Chinese runs out of Vermicelli because they only had one helping on board you have to wonder who is being told what.

The problem is normally that the organisation is silo-managed with the inevitable ‘not my job’ attitude ruining any attempt at cooperation. I know of cases where the people serving the customer say they feed back the requirements and are ignored. This is a common business problem and many try to solve it with a form of matrix management. This, however, is not the solution and leads to chaos and disillusionment.

You cannot process relationships, you can only facilitate them.

What determines the service culture of a business is the behavior and attitude of the CEO. Complaints are his most accessible contact with his market. He should pay more attention to them than to many other aspects of his business. Vox populi may not be highly intelligent, prescient or commercially savvy.

But they certainly know who is the real boss.

They are.