Reframe customer complaints to drive revenue

customer rage with complaints

Reframe customer complaints to drive revenue

Millions of dollars are at risk  or are being lost, as organisations “hide” from customer complaints.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution has redefined customers’ expectations to the point that 80% of them now consider their experience with a company to be as important as its products. The implications for those in customer service are unprecedented.

As leaders, our perceptions of what customers are getting in terms of customer service are very different to what customers are saying they experience with organisations – described as the customer experience gap.

Reframing  customer complaints and training staff in emotional intelligence, social intelligence and attentional intelligence could be the way to adding those potential revenues  back into the bottom line.

Despite the amount of money invested in customer-service programs, 79 percent of consumers who complain are still not happy with the way their complaints are handled, jeopardising repeat business. In the US 2017 Rage Report, customers reported slight improvements in complaint-handling satisfaction, but it’s still a failing grade — putting more than $300 billion dollars of future sales at risk.

In addition to the US 2017 Rage Report, Arizona State University conducts a recurring survey on the topic of “customer rage.” Researchers talk to a sample of American consumers and ask them to characterise their experiences with large companies’ customer service.

According to the most recent survey, 56% of consumers who went to customer service with a problem experienced “rage.” Over half felt they walked away with no solution. Over 80% experienced disappointment. And over 90% experienced frustration.


Emotional triggers

According to the 2017 Customer Rage Survey in the US, negative emotions are still unacceptably high.

  • 91 percent of people experiencing frustration, 84 percent reported feeling disappointment, and 62 percent reporting anger.


  • Forty percent of people reported feeling dissatisfied with the way their complaint was handled, as a result only three percent said they intend to buy again. On the flip side, if complainants were satisfied, 68 percent of them would re-purchase.

At 6peas we use our proprietary  I.C.A.R.E framework to review each of our touch points in the customer journey including the complaints process. The Framework seeks to guide communication with customers to drive positive emotional experiences.  This requires teams to evaluate the processes, features, benefits or communication in a process to ensure that we are creating a positive experience.

In the complaints process for example:

I – how are we reinforcing the importance of the customer.  Have we acknowledged them, their sales history, their value as a customer. Have we listened with an open mind and not with bias. Do our systems and processes allow us to view details of the customer. Do we acknowledge the importance of the customer to the business by capturing the information and sharing it with the organisation as a priority.

C – have we given the customer assurance that they have been heard and that their complaint is being addressed appropriately. Have we got a process in place that acknowledges the complaint and what will be done. How often do we follow a complaint all the way through to its resolution. How frequently are we talking about complaints and feeding them into our IT departments, our product development team, our marketing teams.  How often do we provide feedback to the customer about how their complaint has helped us to address issues.

A – Have we empowered the customer throughout the process or have we removed their options such as how they choose to engage (FAQ, email, telephone)?  Will the customer feel like we allowed the customer to retain control of the situation or have we reduced their ability to control the situation ie forwarded them to another person, made them repeat the issue continuously. Have we only allowed one method to communicate the complaint?  How many steps are required by the customer to find the complaints process? How fast do you address issues and have you identified time critical periods for your customers in the journey? What affects are caused by the issues that are reducing the control of the customer ie when bank feeds don’t come through and people cannot meet BAS deadlines.

R – Have we used this time to try and connect with the customer? Using the customer purchase history have we tried to relate to the customer so that they are more than just a person complaining?  Similar to the way we try and relate to the customer at purchase, are we using our time to recognise that the customer is part of our community and may be providing feedback as a loyal customer willing to forgive a mistake. Why do we treat customers poorly after years of being a customer as if they no longer matter to us?

E – Have we ensured that our terms and conditions are clear and transparent prior to purchase? Have we assisted the customer in understanding the rules of engagement? Have we acted fairly throughout the complaints process? Have we ensured that we have fulfilled our promise and if not have we fixed this in a fair way? When responding and listening to the complaint have we ensured that we are responding in a way that is unbiased, open and approachable manner.  Have we captured the information so that the organisations knows of potential issues?


Digital Technology

Organisations need to begin to understand how technology impacts on the customer complaints process. Driving negative emotional experiences with customers is a sure way to generate negative word of mouth.

Negative experience are often as a result of customers not being able to resolve their complaint during the whole experience and secondly the effort required by customers to make the complaint and achieve resolution.

With customer complaints the number one objective is to feel that they are being “heard” and often require the choice to talk to a human. When you reduce the customer’s ability to choose their engagement, you reduce their level of control in the process – this insights more anger or frustration.

  • In 2017, the telephone is still the primary way to complain, by a nearly six to one margin over the internet (70 to 12 percent).
  • However, social networking websites can spread a massive amount of negative word-of-mouth (WOM), reaching 825 people on average, compared to 12 people under traditional WOM.
  • Which corporate telephone customer-service practices do consumers hate most? Automated phone technology without the option to talk with a live person, followed by “try to sell you something,” customer service agents with accents, and outsourcing.


Tips for business

Resolution is the key word – customers want their problems resolved. Typically it takes multiple contacts before a problem is resolved, and too frequently there is not a satisfactory resolution. This is extremely frustrating and dissatisfying for customers.

So what can businesses do to keep customers from emotional rage and retain better relationships. Think differently to the way that we view customer complaints:

  1. Reframe the way frontline staff  perceive complaints
  2. Train staff on the three intelligences – emotional, social and attentional
  3. Capture complaints so that service and product improvement themes can be identified
  4. Know where your biggest issues or friction is with your customers
  5. Drive innovation with your most valued customers, seek innovation as a way to target new segment
  6. Potentially look to create value for a new segment of customers
  7. Use technology to reduce friction not create it
  8. Talk about complaints, don’t hide them
  9. Start using the ICARE framework during your customer journey and communications
  10. Treat complaints as a critical discussion point in your business – it could more important than your acquisition strategies.