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Complaining - to the right person - is actually a good thing

A file photo of shoppers at the Charles and Keith outlet at Wisma Atria. If there is one thing Singaporeans love to do, it is complain. You would think that given our penchant for whinging, the complaint rate to companies will soar above that of other countries. (ST PHOTO: LAU FOOK KONG)

Publication Date : 19-07-2012

 

If there is one thing Singaporeans love to do, it is complain. You would think that given our penchant for whinging, the complaint rate to companies will soar above that of other countries.

But that is not the case. Singapore falls behind the United States (US) and Korea in this aspect, with companies in the US and Korea seeing complaint rates of about 4 and 1.5 times higher respectively.

So, if Singaporeans are renowned for complaining yet do not make their displeasure known to companies, what can this possibly mean?

For one, they are likely to share their dissatisfaction with their friends and family members.

According to Caroline Lim, director of the Institute of Service Excellence, the percentage of customers in this group spiked to 7.7 per cent from 2.9 per cent based on recent customer service surveys.

The number of customers who feel there is "no point" or that it's "too difficult" to complain also went up, from 2.5 per cent to 8.4 per cent.

In addition, Singaporeans are generally non-confrontational, with more preferring the route of blogs or social networking sites to hit back at the offending party.

Regardless of how the complaints are volleyed at the company who has seemingly upset the customer, complaints are a good thing.

Said Dr Marcus Lee, academic director of the Institute of Service Excellence: "Customer complaints can be an invaluable source of business intelligence for companies that react positively to them."

Not only do these complaints allow a company to close the feedback loop, and save unsatisfied customers from boycotting their company, they also provide an opportunity for the company to review processes that have not been delivered as planned.

Some companies use complaint figures as a key performance indicator (KPI). This practice is generally not useful because complaint rates are easily manipulated, such as by setting up inaccessible complaint channels. Instead, companies should use complaint handling ability as a KPI.

"You have no control over customers complaining, but can control how it's handled," said Lim, as customer satisfaction can be measured by how complaints have been handled.

Customer Satisfaction Index of Singapore (CSISG) data has consistently shown that addressing customer complaints well will always result in customers who are almost as satisfied as those who did not have any complaints.

Feedback can be cleverly used as an interaction tool, where complaints are used as to use complaints as an engagement tool to redesign and create a great service experience.

Said Dr Lee: "For employees, a mindset of garnering complaints as feedback is an internal signal to staff, for them to question how things are done, to review processes and ultimately improve business productivity."

Lim advised companies to handle customers' complaints by telling them what they are doing about it, and to encourage both complaints and compliments from customers.

Customers, on the other hand, can help by not being indifferent and reward good service. They should also find out their rights and entitlements, so that when service lapses or failure arises, they will know how to provide feedback, added Lim.

Quotes from Dr Marcus Lee first appeared in an article from The Business Times.

 

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