Beyond Resolution: Navigating Continued Pushback from a Complainant

Beyond Resolution: Navigating Continued Pushback from a Complainant

It has never been unusual for complainants to push back on a complaint outcome. However, the number of complaints which are disputed after an outcome has been reached has risen drastically in the last few years. Continued back and forth on complaints which should be closed wastes time for complaints handlers, and reduces the time they have available to manage and resolve new complaints.

So, how can we ensure that once an outcome is reached, the complainant is satisfied? Understanding customer expectations up front can help ensure you reach the best outcome for everyone involved. Nevertheless, there will still be complainants who push back, so we also look at methods for finalising resolutions and closing the conversation.

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Understanding Customer Expectations

When dealing with complaints, it is crucial to understand the expectations of your customers. By identifying the customers' expectations upfront, you can align your efforts towards meeting those expectations and providing a satisfactory resolution.

Some customers may just be looking for an apology and can be put off by what they interpret as a derisory settlement offer. Other customers may be motivated by seeking an outcome that will benefit a wider group of people rather than just looking for a personal resolution.

By recognising and addressing these motivations, you can work towards a resolution that satisfies the individual customer and allows for a smooth closure of the complaint.

Challenges to Complaints Resolution

However, it's not always possible to understand and achieve the resolution a complainant is looking for. In the current landscape, companies are facing several challenges when it comes to resolving complaints. One significant challenge is the shift in public attitude since the COVID-19 pandemic. There has been an increase in people pushing back on final responses and settlements, making it harder to reach a resolution.

Companies without an ombudsman or equivalent for escalation purposes often find themselves stuck in a loop of unresolved complaints. These complaints can go round and round without a clear path to resolution. Interestingly, even industries which have an ombudsman often find that complainants would rather continue to dispute outcomes with the provider rather than escalating them to the ombudsman.

The complexity of complaints is also increasing, as many complainants bring up additional issues to muddy the waters after the initial complaint has been raised. This further complicates the resolution process and prolongs the overall timeframe.

Actions for Finalising Complaints Outcomes

To address the challenges faced in the complaints resolution process, companies have implemented various actions.

One approach that companies have employed is phoning customers to explain the rationale behind the settlement. This helps complainants to understand that their complaint has been investigated by a real person with considerate rationale and can lead to a greater sense of satisfaction with the resolution. 

Many companies have also been working on making their final resolution and settlement wording firmer. By using strong language and clearly stating their position, companies aim to discourage further communication and prevent prolonged disputes.

Some companies use a 'Deadlock' letter, which strongly asserts that they will not engage in further communication regarding the complaint. This approach helps set clear boundaries and avoid confusion. Companies have also learned the importance of not reengaging after sending a Deadlock letter. This only serves to confuse and prolong the process, so it is essential to stand firm on the decision.

Internal policy statements have been introduced and shared within companies to ensure all staff members are aligned and do not undermine previous resolution efforts. Policies such as 'no means no,' 'vexation,' 'no CEO involvement,' and 'unreasonable behavior' help guide employees in handling complaints consistently and avoiding bowing to pressure from a demanding complainant to provide unnecessary escalation or overcompensation.

How Can Complaints Management Software Help?

Complaints Management Software can aid this process by ensuring complaints handlers have easy access to document templates (e.g. for a Deadlock letter), and that they are guided through a complaints process where next steps, including escalation, is directed by workflows. 

A Complaints Management Solution also gives a complete overview of all interactions with a complainant over time. This helps to identify and flag repeat complainants and ensure that complaints handlers take a suitable approach from the outset with these individuals. You can read more on this topic in our blog about dealing with repeat complainants effectively.

Finally, data analysis and reporting functionality within Complaints Management Software could also be used to identify certain types of complaints that tend to invoke a sense of injustice and disappointment in the level of redress. This may allow you to identify the root causes of dissatisfaction and to put a new process in place for handling these case types. 

Ultimately, the key lies in establishing a customers intentions from the outset, consistent and clear communication, and firm adherence to resolution decisions. By instating these actionable solutions, companies can streamline their complaint resolution processes, reduce wasted time for handlers, and better manage new complaints.