Posted on 31st January, 2017

Opinion: Complaints are awesome

James Walker on, why complaints aren’t bad

Why would anyone love complaints? A complaint is evidence that you have done something wrong, takes time and effort to resolve and, at the end of it all, you may still lose your customer. The classic line in a complaint, “I will never use your service/product again,” is saying; “Don’t bother trying to please me, it’s a waste of (my) time.” And yet progressive customer oriented organisations do want to receive complaints.

And it’s not just because of regulation – being “told” to manage complaints.  The action of regulators does not encourage complaints. By measuring organisations based on the number of complaints for their number of customers, they encourage the prevention of complaint reporting by making it hard to complain, rather than the understanding of the cause of the issue and subsequent service improvement. The regulatory approach measures the symptoms not the cause.

Regulator reporting is therefore driving a culture not focused on improvement but on prevention through creating barriers. To build better services and products for consumers, organisations (both public and private) need to focus on delivering better outcomes and from learning from the consumer’s experiences. A complaint is another form of customer feedback and communication. If you are not receiving communications and acting upon them, then you are not learning and you are not improving.

Regulators would be able to provide more assistance to the consumer and organisation by measuring complaint outcomes or severity.


Resolution Outcome

The outcome of cases and measuring satisfaction at resolution is a simple, independent assessment of customer satisfaction.  Businesses are focused on how they resolve issues and not how they prevent issues. The focus of regulator assessment moves away from complaint numbers and focuses on satisfaction with the outcome.



The alternate approach is to consider the severity of issues. Rather than the focus being on the number of complaints, it is on how many issues of high severity are raised. Measuring severity allows cases that are minor to be removed or to receive a lower weighting in the counting of issues. Businesses are then encouraged to allow customers easier access to make complaints and to use the knowledge gained to improve service rather than to stifle and prevent complaints from surfacing.


Better outcomes

To make markets operate efficiently the focus of regulation is to drive trust and confidence within the market and to remove friction of operation. By preventing or making complaining hard, businesses are driving friction, thereby removing trust and reducing growth. Complaints are a natural element of any market and are the key feedback loop that drives service improvement.

Current legislation requires a rethink to encourage organisations to embrace complaints. Complaints are awesome because they are the fundamental communication mechanism that drives service improvement and quality for the customer.