Can we calm customer rage for good in 2019?

Despite the growing focus on Customer Experience, many organisations still fall short with their complaints handling procedures. Sarah Simon, Senior Director, CX Consulting at Confirmit discusses the unique potential that the call centre holds to turn customer dissatisfaction into positive, long term engagement.

As customers, most of us will have heard that our ‘call is important’ to the businesses we phone. The trouble is, some of us will have been on hold for far too many minutes, listening to just how important we are over and over again.

It’s this irony that frustrates so many customers today. Despite massive investments over the past few decades to improve call centre experience, companies are no more effective at dealing with us when we have an issue with a product or service. In fact, customer rage appears to be on the increase!

The reality is that however good a product or service may be, there will always be a time when something goes wrong. And how companies deal with this has a direct – and often dramatic – impact on repeat business, loyalty and reputation.

Complaints handling in the call centre is therefore a critical component of the customer experience but continues to be overlooked when customer experience (CX) programmes are being established. This is often because it’s overshadowed by the more attention-grabbing aspects of CX such as upselling to existing customers, delivering integrated channel experiences, or branding customer touchpoints.

Why customers continue to rage

A recent Customer Rage survey shows that poorly handled complaints lead to high levels of frustration, disappointment and anger among customers – emotions which we know lead to negative word of mouth and a desire to seek a better experience elsewhere.

What’s more, the study also showed that over half of customers who made complaints felt they received nothing in return for their efforts – whether that was a replacement product, compensation or similar goodwill gesture.

If more and more organisations are implementing comprehensive CX programmes, and CX is moving up the corporate agenda for many businesses, how can they continue to overlook one of the key contributors to loss of revenue?

For many organisations, the issue lies in the decision to focus CX strategy on the new: winning new customers, delivering new products, introducing new processes. It’s also because these ‘positive’ activities traditionally gain more attention than existing customers or pesky process problems.

But this is short-sighted – and financially damaging. The report clearly shows that most companies earn a negative ROI on complaint handing. While 68% of those who complain and are satisfied with the response intend to re-purchase from the company again, this figure drops by a massive 57 points to just 11% for those who complain and are simply mollified by the response. Only 3% of complainants who aren’t satisfied with the outcome would consider future interactions with that organisation.

This equates to a huge lost opportunity for earning revenue from an existing customer base – one that could easily remain engaged and loyal with the right approach.

And it’s not just whether the complaint is rectified that’s important to future business. Even though the web is still not the primary channel for complaints handling, the repercussions via negative word-of-mouth are huge: traditional word-of-mouth reaches around 12 people, while online and social networking word-of-mouth reaches a massive 69 times that, averaging around 825 people.

Putting the call centre at the heart of the solution

So how can the call centre and complaints handling processes turn things around and evolve into long term customer engagement?
Corporations have long relied on the call centre to provide a wide range of services to customers at different stages of the customer lifecycle via multiple channels. This direct interaction with the client throughout the customer journey puts the call centre in a unique position to address ‘customer rage’.

By evolving the call centre from its role as a conduit for information or a sales hub into a catalyst for action, companies have the best opportunity to deal more quickly and effectively with customer dissatisfaction. This means that call centre teams need to be empowered to capture and articulate the customer experience, and put the call centre itself at the hub of strategic CX programmes.

It’s important to note that making this change is not simply about increasing the number of customer surveying implementations, although this in itself indicates a shift towards the call centre as the channel for gathering data on customer experiences. It’s also about understanding how to turn the call centre function into a proactive ‘tool’, able to not only gather but also disseminate information across the organisation.

Most critically, though, it’s about ensuring any activity that gathers customer feedback isn’t implemented as a quick ‘box ticking’ exercise that doesn’t add value, but as one stage in an action-driven corporate plan with specific outcomes, targets and KPIs.

For example, approaches to customer interactions must move from a ‘once and done’ transactional customer service mind set to a ‘customer experience’ philosophy. Service representatives need to focus not only on the immediate request at hand but anticipate and address future needs.

Companies therefore need to integrate the customer’s voice, whether that’s negative or positive – via satisfaction scores and verbatim feedback – with internal call listening, frontline feedback and quality scoring, to provide a holistic view of the service experience. Moreover, they need to implement action management programmes that identify both immediate customer actions – through alerting – and long-term change requirements.

Transformational change through integrated CX

This transformational change in the approach to service has the power to deliver statistical reductions in repeat calls and statistical increases in several Voice of the Customer (VoC) metrics – one of which must focus on complaints handling. The ultimate benefit of this transformation is undoubtedly reduced repeat contacts, higher first-time call resolution, and improved VoC scores for call centre representatives themselves across a range of measures (call resolution rate, ease of business, overall satisfaction, and NPS).

Measuring results in real time also provides the front line with immediate feedback and ultimately validates programme results with the customer’s voice.

Comprehensive feedback from survey data, the frontline, call monitoring, customer compliments and customer complaints will also undoubtedly strengthen service transformation as representatives are empowered to self-evaluate calls –driving faster, deeper and long-lasting customer experience improvements.

About the Author

With over 20 years’ experience in customer experience, Sarah’s passion lies in operationalising the Voice of Customer to drive outstanding customer experiences. Her specialities include VoC architecture, developing linkages to business performance, reduction of customer defection and analysing customer feedback to tell the customer’s story. Her expertise in VoC survey design has combined with omni-channel customer listening to structure sophisticated, customer-friendly VoC programmes.

Currently, she serves as Senior Director, CX Consulting at Confirmit, where she combines her industry thought-leadership with customised needs-analysis to architect new feedback initiatives and corresponding customer experience strategies. She also runs diagnostics on existing programmes to optimise structure and function to yield significant business insights from mature programmes.

About Confirmit

Confirmit is the world’s leading SaaS vendor for multi-channel Customer Experience, Employee Engagement, and Market Research solutions. The company has offices in Oslo (headquarters), Grimstad, London, Moscow, New York, San Francisco, Sydney, Vancouver, and Yaroslavl. Confirmit’s software is also distributed through partner resellers in Madrid, Milan, Salvador, and Tokyo.

Confirmit powers Global 5000 companies and Market Research agencies worldwide with a wide range of software products for feedback / data collection, panel management, data processing, analysis, and reporting. Customers include Aurora, British Standards Institution, Cross-Tab, Dow Chemical, GfK, GlaxoSmithKline, GMO Research, KeepFactor, Nielsen, Research Now, RS Components, QRS, SSI, and Swisscom.

Visit for more information.