Many economists characterize the business cycle in four stages – recession, recovery, growth and decline – that can last anywhere from two to 12 years, repeat over time, and are often associated with larger national and international business trends.
While it may not be a direct analogy, insightful, customer-centric organizations often realize that there also are four stages of complaint management maturity. In other words, there are four clear and distinct levels at which organizations can find themselves in dealing with customer complaints - one of the most critical components in determining their businesses’ success.
More than having a clear definition of these four levels, executing a comprehensive approach to the entire complaint management lifecycle, regardless of level, is critical for organizations that want to strategically address customer satisfaction as a means of building brand reputation, driving revenue and creating a sustainable competitive advantage.
Know Thy Organization
The first level in the complaint management maturity model is avoidance. This level is best defined as the typical “ostrich with head in sand” approach to customer complaints. In sum, this occurs when organizations are aware they have complaints, but don’t take steps to address them in a systematic matter.
At this level, many organizations avoid the underlying issues causing the complaints, which leads to unsatisfactory service levels. In these instances, companies manage complaints on an individual basis rather than relying on an organizational system to address the inherent inefficiencies. Even with today’s technological advances, this one-off approach to complaint management is still alive and well. The difference is, today’s customers have more power and more channels through which to communicate dissatisfaction – which can turn lackluster customer service policies into immediate and significant revenue drain.
From Avoidance to Awareness
To address any business issue, organizations must first acknowledge the issues exist. To that end, organizations in the second level of the maturity model are one step closer to improving their complaint management operations simply by being aware of them. Many organizations at this level move their complaint management system along by establishing baseline processes and using enterprise-class tools to aggregate customer complaint information. This technology enables them to move away from isolated data silos and create repeatable actions to address customer concerns.
During the same time, while moving complaint management forward, level two companies still have not perfected their processes. Similar to level one companies, organizations in this phase still center their complaint management processes on the actual complaints rather than the root causes of those issues.
Enterprise is Everything
Companies at the third level of the complaint management lifecycle understand the importance of enterprise-wide analytics to address customer concerns. Moreover, companies at this level are making a deliberate shift from a transactional focused model to one that centers on addressing the underlying issues of customer dissatisfaction.
At this level, organizations are addressing customer concerns in a systematic, repeatable manner and zeroing in on fixing the weakest links within their organizations, from processes to people, that are impeding maximum levels of customer success.
Turn to Technology
For organizations looking at automated solutions to address and manage their customer complaint processes, there are certain technology “must-haves” to consider.
-- Configurable. While industry best practices matter, organizations cannot rely on a cookie cutter approach when addressing their customer complaints. Organizational changes, such as entering new markets or offering new products, can impact customer satisfaction levels. In the end, an organization needs to be able to quickly modify its customer complaint solution to meet the changing needs of their business.
-- Consumable. Regardless of the wonderful outcomes it is designed to achieve, the best customer complaint management system will not be embraced by internal users unless it is a natural and seamless part of a full set of productivity tools. The solution must enable efficient execution of the core business processes that the organization has implemented.
-- Compatible. The best complaint management systems will easily integrate with other enterprise systems and back office tools, such as traditional CRM systems. This ability to integrate systems provides organizations with the holistic view they need to analyze data and set processes in place to address customer issues in a connected manner.
Today’s customers are informed and empowered – meaning their expectations are higher and their loyalty is low. The competitive advantage that organizations once had because of pricing and reputation is diminishing in many industries and completely going away in others.
This leaves customer relationships as the remaining component of the business experience that organizations can address, manage and improve as a means to address customer needs and create more permanent relationships as a way to build loyalty and drive revenue.
Matt Keenan is Vice President, CRM Product Management at Aptean./a>