Recognising 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.

Whilst we Brits love to moan about things like the weather, we tend to be reluctant to speak up when it comes to other things that make us unhappy or inconvenienced. Millions of consumers could potentially be missing out on refunds or replacements for products and services due to feeling awkward or underconfident about ‘making a fuss’.

This reluctance to complain tends to be a generational issue, with younger people, particularly those under 35 years, being less likely to complain than their parents or grandparents. Another reason someone might not speak up about a product or service is that they may lack the confidence to complain due to a lack of understanding or knowledge, particularly when it relates to financial services.

When we are dissatisfied with a product or service, being assertive and making a complaint can often lead to a solution or even financial compensation.

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. Remember that the Insurance Distribution Directive (IDD) requires insurance intermediaries to have the minimum necessary knowledge of complaints handling. Putting this into practice is not just about ensuring regulatory compliance, it also makes good business sense and helping to achieve good outcomes for customers.

About the author

Nathan is a member of the senior management team at RWA and manages the company’s e-learning, content and professional standards department. He joined RWA as a content writer in 2016, on successfully completing his PhD. Nathan previously worked in the private, public and charitable sectors and has a broad range of experience, including research and analysis, project delivery, corporate governance, and team leadership.

Get UKGI Insight In Your Inbox

Regular business news and commentary delivered direct to your inbox each week. Sign up here