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COMPLAINTS

I see that the latest batch of politicians who know what's best for us (aka The Coalition) have the same touching faith in empty rhetoric as all their predecessors.
Sure, we all know what balancing the books means: in small businesses, if you run a deficit for more than twenty minutes, you generally cease to exist - simples.
At a national political level, however, we're now going to balance the books by generating more jobs in the private sector than the millions likely to be lost in the public sector.
Now don't get me wrong: I'm all for shrinking the state.  There are far too many pen-pushers and quangos scratching around for some self-justification.  A thinning of the woods, so we can see the trees, is long overdue.  Personally I'd be a lot more draconian.
However, the idea that all this slack (or should that be slackers?) is going to be taken up by private sector growth is fanciful in the extreme.
Let us put to one side the fact that many private sector businesses in any case depend at least in part on the public sector for their own trade.  I have seen projections of one job lost in the private sector for every one in the public sector.  So, as usual, our political masters are employing a heap of wishful thinking here.
But what really grates for me, is the fact that, still, they are employing the same tired models for growth, based on the fatuous belief that corporate Britain will somehow magically extricate them from the mire.

PROBLEM OR OPPORTUNITY?

According to research (and it's been replicated several times by respected practitioners), for every ten people in the UK who have a bad experience, only one actually makes a complaint.

But all ten tell ten others (on average) of their disappointment. Now, as a business owner/manager in charge of everything, including complaints, do the very simple arithmetic.

Feeling smug about the fact that in the last three months you've only had one complaint? Well now consider that there are probably a hundred out there who thinks your organisation is pants. It's a sobering thought, and one that should prompt a review of how you handle the complaints you do get - not to mention trying to persuade the other 90% to articulate their disappointments too.  You can't do much about what you don't know.

Because the same research indicates that, if handled properly, complainants can be transformed from spreader of negativity to raving recommenders.  And all you have to do to effect this miracle is: listen, express genuine concern and (this is the important bit) take disproportionate action. ie Do more than the complainer could have any right to expect.

So in the case of our cardboardy Yorkshires, the lack of response means I now tell anyone who asks what the food is like there, that it's "patchy". If they had knocked (say) 10% off those two meals - a couple of quid at most - would it have made any difference? Well, not much really. They would have demonstrated that they at least accepted there was a problem, but token gestures don't take you that far. Had they said, "Really sorry, those two meals are on us - and if we can persuade you to come back and give us another chance, here's a voucher for a free bottle of wine," then there is a better than even chance that we would have been prompted to tell others of our (now) positive experience.

The cost of such action (£20 tops) set against the negative drip-drip of unfulfilled expectation corroding the "brand" is in relative terms insignificant. Every organisation has cock-ups and failures, but how it deals with those issues defines the way its customers think about it.

I do get irritated by the glib trotting out of, "All problems are opportunities", but in the case of complaint handling, you do have a genuine chance to turn a negative into a positive, while promoting an ethos of high-quality customer care. And that's a holy grail for all of us, isn't it?

 

For those of you who are following my adventures of running a marketing services agency in the 80's and 90's, I've just posted chapter 8 of The Unprincipled (3 more to go) on my Blog - www.hilltopconsultancy.co.uk/blog

We've just had a major split in the ranks and the business is looking down the barrel. Now e have an opportunity to restore our fortunes and replace all the lost business, but unless it works out exactly to plan time-wise, we could run out of cash before it starts to pay back. It is literally make or break. So what do we do?

You'll have to read it to find out.




For more information, or to arrange a no-strings-attached initial meeting, contact:  

David Croydon

Hilltop Consultancy
Business Advice Oxford, Oxfordshire