Effective Complaint Handling: An Untapped Opportunity to enhance Customer Loyalty

 In Customer Experience


It is well acknowledged that there is no problem-free relationship. This then also holds true for relationships between organisations and their customers.

It is also a fact that unless relationship problems are acknowledged and addressed, the relationships can be short-lived.

This too is true for organizations and their customers. Lifetime loyalty that organisations aspire for cannot, therefore, be achieved unless the problems – the complaints – are resolved.

For these problems to be addressed and solved there are 2 prerequisites:

  1. The customer must take the trouble to tell us that they have a problem – they must complain and not just walk away.
  2. We must respond immediately and solve at the earliest.

Both the conditions are completely under the control of the organisation and are even today an untapped opportunity for most organisations.

If we can create convenient channels and reassuring first responses the first prerequisite will be met. And then if we have strong systems and empathetic people to resolve the complaints, we will have loyal customers and advocates.

Citing my experiences with 2 organisations with whom I had a problem. One ignored me while the other paid attention to me. Anyone’s guess who I will be going back to and who I will replace as my service provider.

I had requested my data services provider to relocate my connection to the new address. The company promised that the relocation will happen within 2 days of placing the request, however, when this did not happen even after 4 days, I reached out to their customer care centre. During our conversation, the executive transferred the call to 3 departments, and I was asked to explain my issue to all 3. It was a frustrating experience and escalated my displeasure and I changed my data service provider.

In another instance, I contacted an organisation to place an exchange request for a product that I was not happy with. The executive showed empathy and provided a prompt resolution. My issue got resolved in less than 2 minutes and I was delighted and my unhappiness on receiving the wrong product just faded away.

Simply said, the way that a complaint is handled can drastically influence the way the customer perceives the organisation.

To leverage the opportunity of complaints TMI did ground-breaking work, on how treating “Complaints as Gifts” could be the most cost-efficient and effective way of enhancing customer loyalty.

Mentioned below are ‘8 golden rules’ proposed by the “A Complaint Is a Gift”™ concept and application created by TMI.


  1. Say Thank you: Whenever you receive a complaint, the first words you should try to use are: “Thank you!”, regardless of who the customer is or what the complaint is about.  A customer who complains is doing you and your organisation a favour by giving you a chance to improve your services. Thus, your thanks should be as natural and spontaneous as when you receive a birthday present.
  2. Explain why you appreciate the complaint: Saying “thank you” without an explanation may easily come out like a meaningless recorded cliché. You, therefore, need to explain why you appreciate the complaint. For example, you can say: ‘Thank you for taking the trouble to talk to us – I realise it has taken both time and effort. Your complaint will help us to improve our services.’
  3. Apologize for the inconvenience: Make an unreserved apology, about the anxiety the complaint has created to the customer – no matter whether the mistake was made by you, your colleagues or due to circumstances beyond your control. This will make the customer feel valued and will reduce the frustrating emotions that the customer could be feeling at the time.
  4. Promise to do something about it immediately: Assure the customer that you will do something about it immediately. Explain what can be done about the matter and how you and your organisation are prepared to enhance customer satisfaction.  Do this irrespective of whether you will be the one to handle the complaint or not.  Remember, only make promises you can keep – and keep your promises!
  5. Ask for necessary information: After performing the above 4 steps, you will be able to manage the negative feelings of the customer. This is the right time to ask for the information you need to correct the mistake. Try to get all the right information, so you can prevent any further mistakes from occurring when processing the complaint. However, make sure that the customer does not feel that your questions are like a “cross-examination” or an “interrogation”.
  6. Correct the issue promptly: To ensure customer satisfaction, it is imperative that the customer feels that their complaint is given the proper attention and is settled promptly. If the problem cannot be solved immediately, and/or if any unexpected obstacles occur along the way, you should immediately advise the customer accordingly.
  7. Check customer satisfaction: It is not enough just to correct the mistake. You need also to check that the customer is satisfied with the way in which the problem was dealt with. Write or telephone the customer to make sure that they are satisfied and will stay a customer.
  8. Prevent future mistakes: This last step is the most frequently overlooked, simply because once customer satisfaction has been checked, it feels like the process is complete. However, an approach like this may lead to a situation wherein the same issues may occur again and again for other customers or in the worst case for the same customer. This will hamper all your previous efforts. Thus, steps also need to be taken to analyse the complaint: What went wrong? What is the reason(s) for the mistake (s)?; How to prevent it? And so on.

We believe that making these rules a part of your organisation’s DNA can help you to delight your customers and retain as well as regain their loyalty. To know more, reach out to us now.

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