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Complaint management: an example you should NOT follow

As you may know our agency is working a lot on complaint handling and complaint management practices. Handling complaints well proves to be very rewarding in terms of customer satisfaction and loyalty. Make sure you listen to the podcast we recorded with Prof. Davidow in March 2020 on this topic. Prof. Davidow is one of the world’s most renown experts as far as complaint handling is concerned.

To offer recommendations to organizations we study actual complaints and their answers and explore how answers may be perceived by complainants.

We would like to offer you today an example of such interaction. To avoid infringing privacy rights, we have chosen an example taken from the online forum Les Arnaques where interactions between unsatisfied customers and firms are public. The firm (King Commerce) has ceased operations and doesn’t exist anymore.

Customer’s complaint:

Hello I’ve made a purchase on 7 December at king commerce for an amount of 89.90€ I had to receive this order in express (9.90€) but as of today NOTHING, no answer to my emails, no anwer to my phone calls, the telephone rings unheeded!!!! I want to be reimbursed because I find this is not acceptable

The complaint regards an online purchase that has not been delivered yet. The rootcause of the insatisfaction is on the first hand the delivery time to receive the purchase, and on the other hand a bad communication with the company which didn’t return calls nor replied to emails.

Answer received from the company

Hello in the terms and conditions that you have accepted it is well mentioned that delivery times vary from 2 to 12 days. As far as the unique email is concerned you sent on 14/12/2010 we did send an answer! For the reimbursement please contact the after-sales department on our website cordially

The first striking fact about this answer is that it’s full of spelling mistakes and grammatical errors. There are at least 8 obvious such errors. There are only 56 words. It’s therefore a 14% rate of grammatical errance.

Besides those errors the company’s answer is also incredibly aggressive. First of all the company starts by referring to its general conditions and stresses that the customer has accepted it. After only 10 words, any discussion is made already impossible because the company implicitly opposes legal arguments to the complaint. In the same first sentence the delivery delays are reminded to the customer who, as a matter of fact, loses his face because his complaint is turned down.

The second sentence is also interesting and incredibly threatening. It stresses that only one email was sent by the customer (the word “unique” is actually what reinforces the aggressiveness of the answer) and that an answer was sent (notice also the exclamation mark at the end of the sentence). By doing that, the firm gives unconsciously the impression to handle the customer as a liar.

The third (and last sentence) is also a great example of what should not be done. The customer is literally “ordered” to contact the after-sales service to get a compensation. The firm’s representative doesn’t therefore provide any help or assistance and lets the customer handle his complaint further by himself.

Advice for your complaint handling strategy

Complaints do belong to business activities. Whatever you do, you will always have unsatisfied customers who will seek redress. Keep in mind that the act of complaining is actually a blessing for a business. Most customers don’t complain and just stop doing business with the company. That’s what Hirschmann called in 1970 “exist or voice”. Either you exit your relationship with the company and break up the loyalty links; or you speak up and give a second chance to the company.

If you want to explore how to make your complaint management better, please get in touch with us and we’ll show you the broad range of services we offer to eventually increase satisfaction and loyalty.

Advice from a World Expert: How to manage claims in 2020

If you would like to learn more about how to manage a customer complaint effectively, we invite you to listen to the audio sample below. This is the chapter from a podcast we made with Prof. Moshe Davidow, one of the big names in customer satisfaction. In this excerpt, he discusses the efficient management of customer complaints.

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Dr. Pierre-Nicolas Schwab is the founder of IntoTheMinds. He specializes in e-commerce, retail and logistics. He is also a research fellow in the marketing department of the Free University of Brussels and acts as a coach for several startups and public organizations. He holds a PhD in Marketing, a MBA in Finance, and a MSc in Chemistry. He can be contacted by email, Linkedin or by phone (+32 486 42 79 42)

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