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How Can Your Complaint Teams Better Manage Changing Customer Behaviors

How Can Your Complaint Teams Better Manage Changing Customer Behaviors

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How Can Your Complaint Teams Better Manage Changing Customer Behaviors

Dec 13, 2021

Jack Jones
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More and more businesses we speak to are noticing a marked change in customer behaviors, particularly over the last 12 months. While it’s well reported that COVID-19 is no longer regarded as a good excuse for lapses in customer service, you can’t deny that the impact of the global pandemic is still being felt across the world. Supply chain challenges, higher-than-usual employee sickness and the rising cost of everyday living are all contributing to a general feeling of dissatisfaction. This makes people more likely to complain about issues which, in pre-COVID times, might not have warranted a complaint at all.

It’s not just a rise in complaints that we’re seeing, but a change in how people complain. Increased levels of aggression are being reported as well as a desire to escalate complaints from the very outset. All this can have a negative impact on your complaint teams who are having to deal with these challenging customers and it’s very likely that it will have an impact on your KPIs too. So, what’s behind this change in behavior and what can you do to help your team adjust?

The Changing Nature of Customer Complaints

The continued rise of social media and web-savvy consumers in general means that everyone’s an expert these days, with many fully versed in their perceived consumer rights. There’s also the ever-present threat of customers taking to social media to air their grievances, with customers empowered by their ability to ‘go public’ with their complaints. This all makes for more vocal customers, emboldened by readily available (if not always accurate) information and with a fully-formed platform from which to take their stand.

In the past it took a certain amount of commitment to make a complaint, involving physical and mental effort to formulate and lodge a particular problem. This is no longer the case, with businesses actively providing an omnichannel complaint experience in the interest of boosting customer experience ratings, setting themselves up as low-hanging fruit, ripe for picking by unhappy customers looking for an outlet through which to vent their frustrations.

In a similar vein, the rise in aggression could be another by-product of the ubiquity of social media where it might seem that the louder you shout, the more you’re heard. While every complaint handler knows this isn’t the case, with the old adage that empty vessels making the most noise often applying, it’s still difficult to ignore when you’re dealing with increasingly aggressive customers on a daily basis.

Escalating expectations too have a part to play in changing customers’ willingness to complain and complain loudly. We’re all so used to next-day delivery and instant access to suppliers and service providers that we expect this instant gratification as standard. Despite this not always being the best approach to ensure satisfactory complaint resolutions, complaint teams are still under pressure from customers to deliver resolutions faster than ever before. All things considered, it’s easy to see why expectations are sky high from the start, putting your complaint handling teams on the back-foot before they’ve even started.

Managing Challenging Behaviors: Training and Processes

How can you help your complaint teams to manage these challenging behaviors? Part of the answer lies in closing that resolution gap, bridging the difference between what the customer expects and what your business can deliver. Clearly defined complaint processes are a must, helping complaint handlers to manage expectations from the outset by providing full transparency into what exactly is involved in the complaint journey and the kinds of resolutions that customers can expect to achieve.

Clearly defined processes and policies are only useful if the complaint handling teams are well-trained in delivering these expectations too. Training into how to ‘own’ complex customer conversations from the get-go while still actively listening and responding to their specific circumstances is a must.

Communication skills training is key too, helping complaint handlers to confidently and clearly explain policies and procedures so there are no grey areas for unhappy customers to exploit. Additionally, the importance of different communication methods and channels for different customers is also important, with the wrong choice of communication channel potentially further fanning the flames of discontent.

At the same time, this training needs to be underpinned by robust processes and systems. For your complaint handlers, knowledge is power, not only in terms of knowing exactly what the processes are, but also by having access to as much information as possible about the customer. This is why it’s vital for your complaint teams to have access to a centralized complaint management system, a system which records every stage of the customer journey and makes this information available to anyone who’s dealing with that particular complaint. Informed complaint handlers can make informed decisions about not only how to deal with individual customers but how to achieve the right resolutions too.

Even the most well-trained complaint handlers will be at a disadvantage without the necessary information at their disposal. The right combination of training, skills and technology is the only way to enable your teams to manage even the most challenging of customers, securing robust, quality resolutions that benefit your customers AND your business.

For more information on how Aptean Respond can help your complaint handling team manage challenging customer behaviors, contact us today.

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