Need to improve your customer service? Have your Chief Executive sign the complaint responses

AMG Affalterbach DaimlerChrysler customer serv...

AMG Affalterbach DaimlerChrysler customer service Eingang (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sometimes you have trouble with customer service. Try as you might, you cannot find a way to improve it. What may exist is a gap between the senior management and the frontlines regarding customer service. In many ways, the senior managers may believe the organisation delivers good customer service because they receive good customer service.  They may not be experiencing the company as a customer.  In that regard, they may not realize how their company treats their customers or they may not know how to develop a consistent approach to customer service.

Is your complaints culture customer centric?

Each organisation develops its own culture in dealing with customers.  The senior managers may see that the cultural issues as inconsequential because they are dealing with strategic issues.  As a result, the organisation may give customer service a lower priority, which means that customer complaints get the lowest priority.  If the organisation wants to improve its customer complaint response, it will have a lot of work to do to overcome its cultural resistance to customer complaints.

One way to improve the responses to customer complaints would be for the Chief Executive to get involved.  By that I do not mean, they read every complaint or complaint response.  Such an approach, while well intentioned, would only create a bottleneck and distract the CEO from their wider role.  Instead, the focus should be on a random sample of responses.  If they sign a random sample of responses, they send an important signal to customers as well as staff.  For customers, it is a way for the Chief Executive to stand by their company.  In a sense, a CEO’s personal signature says, “I approve this message”.  The phrase has an important resonance with customers.

Stand by your response to complaints.

In the United States, federal political campaign advertisements, candidates are required to state that they approve the advertisement.   They will say something like “I am “candidate X” and I approve this message or this advertisement.  Federal law requires the statement and candidates can suffer financial penalties if they fail to follow the requirements.  From a customer service perspective, this has a powerful effect on how the message is seen. Research shows that viewers had a stronger believe that the campaign was being run in a fair and truthful manner.

Customer service is like an election: every customer is a voter.

In many ways, handling complaints is like running an election.  Each customer is like a voter and the organisation has to convince them of their sincerity as well as their reliability in resolving the complaints.  Like an election, if you take your voters (customers) for granted, then you are likely to lose.  At the same time, though in an election, a campaign husbands the candidate’s time for maximum effect.  The same applies to the Chief Executive’s time.

If the Chief Executive randomly chooses a letter or three a month to respond, she can be like the candidate reaching out to voters.  She can also send a strong message to the organisation about her intent and expectations. By doing this, she would make the staff aware that they are preparing a document that represents the organisation and it represents her.  In such a situation, the staff preparing complaint responses, as well as those who manage them, would take a high interest in the quality of their responses.

A chance to sample customer complaints.

In addition to improving the responses from the various divisions, the CEO will be able to sample the issues affecting individual customers.  At the same time, the divisions would get a chance to display their customer service skills.  By providing the personal touch, the CEO gives the public the assurance that their complaints may be handled directly by the CEO.  A side benefit may be that the public see less of a need to write directly to the Chief Executive if they know that the Chief Executive is already involved in some way.

I am Lawrence Serewicz and I approved this post.


About lawrence serewicz

An American living and working in the UK trying to understand the American idea and explain it to others. The views in this blog are my own for better or worse.
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