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How real-time customer feedback can help reduce complaints and boost advocacy

For the last three years the Ombudsman Services have measured the UK public's appetite for complaining about poor service. In 2016 more than 8 out of 10 of us said we were unlikely to put up with poor service without taking action; and more than 4 in 10 had an active complaint against a product or service. We are a nation whose 'stiff upper lip' appears to be less rigid than it used to be. For companies, particularly those in the service industries, this reduction in preparedness to 'grin and bear it' is a golden opportunity to strengthen and deepen the relationship with customers.

Benefits of customer recovery

Few customers expect their feedback to be listened to, let alone acted on. Closing the feedback loop is a powerful means of transforming customers’ perceptions of your brand. By responding to expressions of dissatisfaction levels of brand advocacy can be improved dramatically. Data from a number of our clients shows that an effective customer recovery process can generate up to three-fold increase in levels of brand advocacy. Niggles can be resolved before they turn into full-blown complaints. Re-engaging with customers will reduce the volume and cost of complaints received by an organisation. It can also head off negative reactions in social media and prompt positive 'word-of-mouth'. Within the call centre resolution failure rates can be traced back to individual call agents, identifying training and coaching requirements within each team.

Recovery leads to measurable business benefit in terms of brand loyalty. A customer to whom you have demonstrated an ability to put things right will stay with you longer – reducing cost of acquisition. The Ombudsman Services Consumer Action Monitor suggests that 75% of consumers would be more likely to return to a company if a complaint they made was handled well, but only one in 10 (8%) would return if it was handled badly.

Best practice for customer recovery

To recover a customer you need to know they are dissatisfied in the first place. Real-time, 'always on' customer feedback programmes provide the opportunity for customers to register their unhappiness.

An effective customer recovery solution will generate an automatic ‘red flag’ alert when a customer signals dissatisfaction through their survey response. Alerts should be triggered by negative scores or by pre-determined words (e.g. Ombudsman, disappointed, complaint) and sent, via email, to nominated individuals - different alerts to different individuals. An effective customer recovery solution will have a dedicated team, ready to respond. Response does not necessarily have to be immediate (we have seen instances where re-engaging with customers 24 hours later still elicits a positive reaction) but it must be informed, relevant and offer a solution to the customer's query. Some of our clients have identified contact centre colleagues whose personalities are better suited to this activity - more experienced, more empathetic, more engaged.

Customer recovery can also be deployed where a positive customer response is triggered. 'Green flag' alerts can can be shared with agents while the experience is fresh in their mind to boost morale and confirm best practice. In some cases re-engaging with customers who have expressed satisfaction and thanking them for their feedback can lead to increased loyalty, advocacy and likelihood to buy additional products.

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