The Value of Complaints

When was the last time you wanted to complain about something but didn’t? Perhaps you received a sub-standard meal in a restaurant, poor customer service in a shop, or witnessed bad manners from someone in public? If you spoke up, then good for you! However, many of us will say nothing, simply roll our eyes or grumble to a friend about it later.

The stereotype that the British are reluctant to complain is backed up by recent research commissioned by the FCA. The study, carried out by Censuswide, suggests that about 15 million of us are losing out on refunds or replacements because we feel awkward, embarrassed or underconfident about ‘making a fuss’. The FCA has even created an interactive quiz which will help determine your own complaining style -

This reluctance to complain tends to be a generational issue too, with younger people, particularly those aged under 35 years, being less likely to complain than their parents or grandparents.

Asserting ourselves and making a complaint when we are unhappy with a product or service, can be an effective way to solve a problem or even receive some financial redress if we’ve been left out of pocket.

Complaints can also result in positive outcomes from a business perspective. Although no-one likes to receive them, complaints can be helpful for businesses. If a disgruntled customer says nothing to you but then criticises your products or services to others, they are unlikely to return and your reputation may be damaged. This problem can be exacerbated in the digital age, where negative feedback can ‘spread like wildfire’ through social networking websites.

Taking a positive approach to complaints can be beneficial as they may provide useful feedback from customers. Surely, if you are running a business you would want to know if your customers were dissatisfied with any aspect of your products or services? This would give you the chance to do something about it and the opportunity to ‘mend’ the relationship with the complainant, retain their custom and improve the experience for future customers.

It is good practice for a business to encourage its customers to provide feedback. You should therefore make it clear to your customers how to complain if they are dissatisfied and give reassurance that you value their opinions and will listen to them.

Organisations, regardless of size, should have an appropriate complaints handling procedure that will outline a consistent approach to managing complaints in an effective and professional manner. To achieve this, staff training in customer service and complaints handling is vital and should include methods of dealing with complaints through different media, whether it be in-person, over the telephone, in writing, or through social media.

These principles are true in virtually all sectors of the economy. More specifically, in the context of insurance distribution, the Insurance Distribution Directive (IDD) requires insurance intermediaries to have the minimum necessary knowledge of complaints handling. Being aware of the FCA’s regulations in this area, and putting them into practice, is not just about ensuring regulatory compliance, it also makes good business sense and helps us treat our customers fairly.

About the author

Nathan joined RWA in 2016 on successfully completing his PhD. He previously worked in the private, public and charitable sectors. Nathan leads the content and professional standards team at RWA and is responsible for managing and curating technical content on the Aviva Development Zone and the award-winning My Development Zone e-learning platforms.

Since joining RWA, Nathan has written hundreds of business skills e-learning modules and assessments on a variety of subjects, including leadership and management, communication skills, human resources, employability, regeneration, citizenship and equalities.

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