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Yellow lines, red tape and poor complaint handling

by Ken Naismith | Posted in Complaints management solutions | 31 August 2016
Yellow lines, red tape and poor complaint handling

Just how far do companies allow things to go with a complaint, irritating a customer? And what impact does this have on caring team members?

How far up your chain of command do you require things to go before anyone is authorised to simply do the right thing?

Our business builds software that helps our customers to manage complaints, so I became drawn into a real life example after early promises to sort the issue out passed, unfulfilled.

It was a genuine mistake which the firm readily acknowledged; a parking fine handed out in error after a car registration mix up at a well-known hotel.

But after more than a dozen emails and various phone calls, four months down the line, £84 has yet to be refunded.

That’s all we’re talking about, £84, and I wish I had just written it off. 

Like most people who feel their complaint has not been adequately dealt with I was left feeling frustrated but, more so, it is the ridiculous waste of time, effort, staff resources and money that has really struck me.

The complaint became so bogged down in red tape that any individuals involved, however well meaning, remained impotent to take the step of just refunding the money.

With many emails copied to various involved parties, I guess in total about 100 actual mails (including the "CC" recipients) have been sent.

Resolving a complaint quickly on the phone can cost as little as £5. When e-mails and investigations kick in, £5 becomes £20, becomes £30, and too soon £200 has clocked up, especially if managers become involved. Considerably more than if the £84 fine had just been repaid in the first place.

If this small example is replicated throughout this hotel firm, and throughout other organisations across the country, it makes me wonder just how much time and money is being wasted on "process"?

This example is a reminder that complaints, when handled well, offer an opportunity to provide excellent customer service and improve loyalty.

When handled badly they not only make organisations look bad and fuel customer frustration, they also damage staff moral and cost a fortune. 

Ken Naismith

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