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Must-read : interview of a customer satisfaction champion

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We are publishing today a very special post. You’ll find below the interview of someone I consider to be a customer service hero, a champion of customer satisfaction.

Frédéric Klotz had worked for RueDuCommerce (one of the most renown e-commerce website in France) for 10 years and became known on forums, blogs, social media for his outstanding qualities.

He kindly agreed to give us an interview where you’ll learn what he learned in terms of complaint handling and customer interactions.

I’m encouraging you to read this interview until the end; the 10 years of experience of Frederic, his career as a pioneer of social media interaction made him one of the most knowledgeable person I can think of and I am sure you’ll learn a lot from him.


3 things to do to handle a complaint well: be positive and concrete, be natural, focus on pragmatic solutions and be always open for dialogue

Frédéric Klotz



IntoTheMinds: Frederic, you have been a leading figure of the online forum “Les Arnaques” which became in 10 years the online forum of reference to settle disputes between firms and their customers. What do you remember of this period and what have you done since then ?

Frédéric Klotz: In 2002, I heard about “Les Arnaques” when this forum was still in its infancy. At that time, I was helping individuals who got lost in the maze of e-commerce where, unfortunately, some crooks were also present. I was at that time a member of a consumer association (Defense-Consommateur.org) which helped consumers who had been conned by unfamous e-commerce firm Pere-Norl.fr.

In late 2003, I was contacted by RueDuCommerce which wanted to recruit someone to handle requests of online customers. At the time, this function was not yet called “Community Manager”. I accepted the challenge and started taking care of this online customer community, but also of fans and would-be customers who were interacting on forums, blogs, and later on social networks. But the job consisted mainly of solving customer issues and feeding them back within the company to solve the rootcause of the issues ! Thanks to a strong web presence, RueDuCommerce saw its brand image improve and users quickly realized the benefits of my position. I was also prompt to give my email address, which caused some troubles at Christmas nights!

As of 2006 some tangible results became visible : users voted RueDuCommerce.com “preferred technical site” and we won that prize again in 2009 and 2011. At that time, I started building a team that helped me to ensure the management of requests which began to flow more and more via social networks. My boss at that time, Gauthier Picquart asked me to take care of the transport and logistics department, which gave me the opportunity to do something else but also to fix the root causes of the problems I had experienced in my previous function. In 2006 we got an ISO 9001 certification for our department, which at that time was a great innovation but also an important competitive advantage.

Finally, in the summer of 2010, I took over the operations of the company ad interim and prepared the Christmas campaign with the help of 100 employees from customer service, after-sales, product management, sales and logistics. That Christmas was a success despite the snowstorms that blocked some packages and gave me a cold sweat!

At the end of 2012, after having implemented the 24-hr order preparation plan (instead of 48 hours) I decided to leave the company.

I started my business in 2013 and now provide consulting services in Supply Chain management. I’m coaching companies on different aspects ranging from purchasing to logistics and customer relations. I am also involved in a number of training courses to train future managers of e-commerce platform on the topics that I know best: logistics, e-commerce history, management of social networks …

Screenshot of the Les Arnaques forum

Screenshot of the “Les Arnaques” forum (now closed but still accessible)

ITM: Do you remember a particular story of your time at “Les Arnaques” ?

FK: The most striking anecdote to me is that of a customer who was really upset and called me thirty times within one day because he could not unsubscribe from a newsletter. At the end of the afternoon, I finally asked him the reason for his attitude (which was almost harassment) and was actually a minor issue. He broke down in tears and told me about his personal problems, that his life was hard and complicated. He had found in me a kind of “punching bag” to vent his problems. Things ended up very well, he apologized flatly, and I realized that day the importance of listening to unlock customer satisfaction.

Prof. Moshe Davidow’s advice on complaint handling

In the following audio excerpt, Prof. Moshe Davidow gives us his tips for successful customer complaint management. He also discusses the evolution of practices in this area and gives us some startling figures on the percentage of companies that do not respond to their dissatisfied customers.

A podcast to listen to urgently!

ITM: Which 3 things would you say are the most important when handling a complaint? And which 3 should be avoided?

FK: 3 things to do:

  • Be positive and concrete
  • Be natural, and don’t “exaggerate”
  • Focus on pragmatic solutions and be always open for dialogue

3 things to avoid:

  • Don’t mock the customer
  • Don’t provide an answer that doesn’t address the issue
  • Don’t reply with a too long answer

ITM: According to you, is it possible to automate responses to customer complaints or is the human touch still required ? Which soft skills do you think are necessary to handle claims and ensure post—complaint satisfaction ?

FK: It all depends on the type of claim. If a system can identify that a question is easy to answer (for example if a client requests the status of his order) then yes the answer could be automated.

If the request is a little bit more elaborated, then nothing will ever replace the human touch because a computer (as far as I know) will always have a hard time interpreting the nuances of a sentence, a word that could have a double meaning or the expression of an emotion.

To handle a complaint, it is necessary in my opinion necessary that the employees displays an analytic mind and capabilities to synthesize the problem. To ensure a high level of customer satisfaction, empathy and a passion for customer service will eventually make the difference.

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Author: Pierre-Nicolas Schwab

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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