Complaints are an inevitable facet of any customer service business; but, managed correctly, they are an effective way of moving customers from a place of apathy or discontent towards your  organisation to one of advocacy.

Recent research from Huntswood has revealed that only 26% of complainants do so in the expectation of receiving monetary compensation. It is crucial to bear in mind that ‘redress’ comes in several forms, and may be as simple as properly listening to the customer and taking the appropriate action to ensure that the situation does not arise again.

The frequency of compensation varies across industries: utilities companies, for example, offer compensation in 42% of instances, whereas in Financial Services the figure is at only 23%. Cross-industry best practice sharing can offer crucial insights into effective complaints management.

It’s clear that what customers do regard as important is a fast and efficient resolution to their problems. 69% of customers expect their issue to be resolved within seven days. An even greater proportion, 75%, expect their complaints to be resolved at the first point of contact. In reality, however, this happens only 47% of the time. It’s possible that siloed processes and a lack of joined-up working in organisations are preventing organisations from turning complainants into advocates by being unable to find a satisfactory resolution for complaints within one phonecall, without the customer being passed on or asked to phone an alternative number, for example.

Despite rapid advances in contact centre technology over the last decade, phone is still the primary channel through which complaints are made. 29% of customers still make their complaints over the phone in the first instance, compared to 28% via email, and only 16% via webchat – and 2% over social media. This is perhaps not surprising when we consider that 12% of customer complaints in the past year arose from systems issues, making this one of the top causes for complaint.

A ‘back to basics’ approach might then be needed when it comes to complaints management – really listening to the customer, speaking human-to-human over the phone to customers, and making sure that complaints are resolved as quickly as possible are the three foundations on which a truly effective complaints management system can be laid.