Better Complaint Management Through Customer Journey Mapping

April 15, 20196min

Nobody wants to receive a complaint about their product or service, but the reality is that we can’t please all of our customers all of the time.  

The time when customer complaints were hidden is now thankfully long gone. Appearing as a judge at the UK Complaint Handling Awards, which celebrates the innovative ways organisations manage complaints, I saw this first-hand.

Receiving complaints, responding to them effectively, and most importantly, learning from them can be challenging.  However, achieving this is critical to the success of any business that is focused on providing the best Customer Experience.

For every customer who complains, there are 26 other unhappy customers who remain silent (source: Lee Resource Inc.). Customers who care enough to tell you about their negative experiences are scarce, but they afford you the opportunity to turn that customer into an advocate and ultimately, retain their business.

Often, complaints are dealt with on a case-by-case basis, but it is critical to take a step back and undertake a root cause analysis, otherwise the opportunity to improve is lost. One of the most effective ways to undertake this process is to plot the journey of the complaint, thereby mapping all the touchpoints, both direct and indirect. 

While a customer journey map (CJM) is a tool often used by marketeers to plot the customer engagement story, from brand awareness through to (hopefully) a long-term relationship, it is also a great resource for complaint management. 

Rather than dealing with the fallout of the complaint on a case-by-case basis, the CJM process enables an organisation to review and map the complaint from beginning to end and identify the root causes. Instead of resolving the complaint from an internal point of reference and making assumptions, the CJM empowers the customer by putting them front and centre. 

One of the major strengths of adopting this method is the ability to view the complete journey when putting into place processes to prevent it happening again. The visual artefact highlights potential gaps, inconsistencies, and the volume of touchpoints – all of which have the potential to contribute to the complaint in the first place. 

More often than not, the solution does not sit at the complaint ‘fallout’ stage but much earlier in the journey. It may be that expectations were set incorrectly at the outset of the journey, or specific information was not provided in marketing collateral etc. By focusing on the complaint as a stand-alone issue, any process changes may have little or no impact. Only by viewing the complaint as a part of the whole journey can you be confident that changes made will have the greatest impact.

Another advantage of a CJM is the people involved in the mapping activity. Too often complaint management is focused on the team that receives that complaint – but any mapping workshop should include representatives from all parts of the business. This level of collaboration reaffirms the importance that every role plays in an organisation’s Customer Experience, whether directly or indirectly, and it also provides the perfect forum for some ‘outside the box’ brainstorming.  I’ve run journey mapping workshops where the ‘lightbulb’ moments have come from unexpected sources, such as software developers, finance teams, and HR.

We know that customer loyalty is one of the key determinants of an organisation’s success. By viewing complaints as learning opportunities and actioning solutions via a customer journey map, you increase the likelihood of turning that customer (and all those that kept quiet) into an advocate. As data from the Jim Moran Institute and Lee Resources showed, 95 percent of customers will give you a second chance if you handle their complaint successfully and in a timely fashion, and that translates to an improved Customer Experience for your current and future customers.


Claire Pampe

Claire Pampe

Claire Pampe is the founder and Director of FIP Consulting Ltd. She has a track record of successfully challenging and optimising behaviour to drive change across all parts of a business to realise significant CX improvements. In 2019, Claire judged at the UK Complaint Handling Awards.




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