Complaints: Moving from reactive to proactive engagement

Customer complaints are a fact of life for most companies.

From the humblest small business to the largest utility providers, there are bound to be at least a few unhappy customers from time to time. While some challenges are small and easily resolved, large numbers of complaints might serve as a warning sign that something is going wrong with your customer journey.

In a competitive market retaining customers is key according to Bain & Company, “a 5% increase in customer retention produces more than a 25% increase in profit”, they also say “a customer is 4 times more likely to defect to a competitor if the problem is service-related than price- or product-related”. It’s key therefore to get a handle on customer challenges as early as possible

Here are 3 suggestions that you might find helpful in getting ahead of any risk:

  • Understand the root causes of customer challenges
  • Prioritise clear and effective communications with customers
  • Consistent and impactful training for your sales agents


#1: Understanding the root cause of customer challenges

The days of one-way communication are over, customers want to engage in meaningful dialogue, especially when something goes wrong. However, waiting until something goes wrong can often be too late.

Creating regular opportunities to seek feedback from your customers on their experience will enable your business to take action.

From surveys to complaint forms, the single most important step in remediating customer challenges is to identify the causes and to understand whether they are one-off issues affecting this customer alone or a recurring issue in your process that warrants further investigation.

This process will also give you insight into what you are doing well, ideas for improvements over time and potentially additional revenue opportunities. Why wait until it’s an issue? Let’s make space to talk to our customers.

#2: Prioritise clear and effective communications with customers

For many people change is difficult in general, that remains true when it comes to switching to a new energy supplier, changing your phone contract, or understanding price increase notices. It is why there are so many people in the UK that are on the standard variable tariff, the most expensive one.

When choosing a new supplier, for example, there can be an overwhelming amount of information to process, and if this information is unclear or open to interpretation it can cause more stress and anguish on a customer. This in turn could lead to complaints or the customer switching provider.

Utility companies can benefit immensely from simply focusing on making the communication of their services, billing structure clear-cut and easy to understand. By keeping communications between your company and the customer simple and easy, your customers will be able to digest the information and understand what they are agreeing to at each stage of your process.

#3: Consistent and Impactful training for your salespeople

Any employee who interacts with your customer is acting on your business’s behalf. We have all seen the impact of rogue rep behaviour on other businesses and the utility industry as a whole. This doesn’t need to happen in your business though, creating the right processes and the right environment will enable you to mitigate the risk. One of the most important ways you can deliver for your potential customers is by creating consistent and impactful training for your salespeople.

From communication your brand value and what’s important (is sales the only thing that matters or is the customer experience, data quality or market intelligence as important?), to specific training relating to interacting with priority or vulnerable people, your sales tactics – solid training is at the heart of your success.


How you deliver that training can impact how well that knowledge is retained and applied.

There have been numerous research efforts to chart the speed at which newly learned skills and information gained during a training session are retained or lost. Sometimes called the “forgetting curve,” the loss of ability to recall new information over time after a training session is almost inevitable. While the amount of information lost to an individual may vary based on a breathtaking number of factors, statistics cited by specialist organisations such as Festo-Didactic state that as much as 77% of information from a single training session is lost after just six days.

So, is training pointless? No, but it does need to be done right in order to ensure the retention of information. The problem with many training programmes is that they consist of a single seminar where the employees are trying to retain every piece of information that they need at once, typically without any chance to practice the knowledge gained. The result is that each employee tends to remember a few tidbits of information from the training session that they found poignant and little else.

One way that your company can improve the retention of information from a training session is to have a digital learning solution in place on the agent’s device, with regular just-in-time learning before application, and regular assessments to ensure they are ‘fit to sell’. This provides employees with the chance to review smaller, more digestible chunks of information and test their knowledge on specific portions of the training. By offering continuous learning opportunities within their workflow, you can significantly improve how well employees remember their training.

Effective training can be the single most important way in which your company prevents customer complaints, as trained, knowledgeable sales staff are much less likely to miscommunicate services and frustrate customers.


How happy are you with your customer engagements in the sales process and beyond?

If you think there is room for improvement we would love to hear from you.