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The role of complaint management in customer experience improvement


The coming months can be a peak time for customer complaints. Without a good complaint management system in place, customer experience can suffer.

16th Dec 2020

How good is your complaint management system? The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) reported in the second half of 2019 that a staggering 6.02 million complaints being made against financial service providers - in the UK alone. This is an increase from the first half of 2019, which saw 4.29 million complaints being reported.

Over 10 million complaints! Furthermore, an enormous £2.66 billion was paid out in compensation between July – December 2019 to complaining customers. And just over 50% of financial complaints were upheld in support of the customer.

To put this simply, half of the time, organisations are concluding the customer is right and they themselves are in the wrong. Clearly this is a staggering statistic. It also highlights how vitally important it is to ensure you have a great complaint management system in place. This will contribute to positive customer experiences which over time will improve customer loyalty, revenue and growth.

Company resources

Efficient complaint handling results in resources such as people and time being more available for customers. Let’s take a look into what efficient complaint handling looks like.

  • Process: A simple yet effective complaint handling process must be in place and documented for all staff to have access to. The process should clearly set out what steps an employee should take when dealing with a complaint.
  • Training: All staff who are expected to deal with complaints must be equipped with the correct training and soft skills to process and manage complaints effectively.
  • Escalation: As part of any good complaint management process, there should be a method that customers can use to escalate any decisions they’re not happy with. This could be either internally to a manager or externally to an ombudsman or trade body.
  • Compensation: A compensation guide is a set of standards that set out a company’s position and process for administering compensation. You should have a guide accessible for all staff that explains how much compensation can be awarded, the criteria for awards and the process of granting payments.

The result of implementing such measures will result in complaints being dealt with in a uniformed way and with an increased level of efficiency. This reduces the time spent on complaints causing customer facing staff to have more time to deal with day-to-day service levels and caring for their customers.

Tip: Create a documented complaint management system ensuring that all staff have access to the document electronically.


Good complaint management can help to build a solid company reputation. An article from the Harvard Business Review explains that companies with a strong positive reputation are perceived as providing more value and can charge a premium. The article also explains that businesses with a good reputation are more likely to have more loyal customers.

Constructing positive customer experiences during complaints will contribute to your organisation’s reputation. Get it right and complaining customers will turn into advocates singing your praises. Get it wrong and customers are likely to choose another service provider and may even take to social media for a rant.

Ensure complaints are dealt with in a highly professional manner and make sure your complaining customers feel valued and listened to. Sometimes all they want is a genuine apology from a staff member. Avoid being defensive about complaints as it can cultivate both a terrible customer experience and reputation.

Tip: Ensure that it’s easy for customers to complain – don’t make them jump through hoops to be heard.

Customer loyalty

Creating positive customer experiences when dealing with complaints will build up a level of priceless customer loyalty. If complaints are handled well, customers will happily return to you as their product or service provider. A key component in achieving this is staff training.

It’s essential for all customer-facing staff to be fully equipped to deal with complaints in an empathetic way. One of the main issues that customers complained about when I worked at the Financial Ombudsman Service was the attitude of staff members. We all need to be trained, reminded and encouraged to provide the best service to our paying and potential customers, especially when they’re dissatisfied with us.

To achieve this, staff should be taught soft skills in the following areas:

  • Attitudes: Customers can and will pick up on a negative or judgemental attitude from staff who are dealing with their complaint. Train your staff to be intentionally positive and non-judgemental when looking into complaints.
  • Communication: Employees should be empathetic and knowledgeable when dealing with complaints. They should be trained on how to communicate over the phone and in writing to resolve complaints positively.
  • Process: All staff should be trained on a documented complaints management process and supported to be confident in the process.

Tip: Create a 2-hour virtual training session to ensure all customer facing staff are equipped with the knowledge and skills necessary to handle complaints well.

Employee Satisfaction

Equipping staff with the right training and resources to resolve complaints is refreshing and critical for your team. As a result, employees are likely to feel happier and more positive at work. This is because they have the practical skills to deal with the often challenging duty of complaint handling. Happier employees provide better customer experiences because they will give off a more friendly and helpful vibe.

A study by the University of Oxford Said Business School found that happy employees were more productive and achieved 13% more in sales. This is another reason why happier employees contribute to better customer experiences. They tend to get more done and are arguably less stressed out and more motivated.

Empowering your team with a suitable complaint management system is worth the investment. This will cause them to feel prepared and in control of complaints contributing to their happiness and positivity at work.

Tip: Create a short multiple-choice survey asking your employees how confident they are in dealing with complaints.


Setting up an effective complaint management system can save time, money and the sanity of those on the front line. Both small and large companies should invest in good complaint management as it promotes professional working practices and contributes to wonderful customer experiences.

Use every complaint as an opportunity to shine and win the heart of a dissatisfied customer. Now more than ever, we must be diligent, positive and empathetic in our approach to complaint handling.

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