Brits are famed for their politeness, but if a consumer has a bad experience, you can guarantee they will tell their friends, family, and colleagues about it. 

Bad news really does travel fast and wide – especially when unhappy customers take to social media. This means that the fine art of complaint handling is, now more than ever, crucial for retailers and brands looking to be more customer-centric and build a loyal customer base.

The combination of product, shopper experience, and customer service are collectively what represents the brand. The service given after they’ve hit the buy button is a key part of this. When this isn’t perfect, complaints happen. However, the good news for retailers and brands is that handling an agitated customer the right way can turn a customer complaint into a positive, relationship-building opportunity.

Turn bad news into good news

Where is my order (WISMO) and where is my refund (WISMR) are some of the most common complaints customers have. In fast-fashion, the rise of subscription ‘Premium’ services guaranteeing next-day-delivery puts pressure on the retailer to ‘deliver’ in the last mile. While such services represent great value for consumers, unfortunately not every post purchase journey is smooth.

An attempted-but-failed delivery of a signature-required package, poor weather, or more serious issues like damaged packaging can all generate delays and sometimes complaints; and on the whole, consumers know such issues are rarely a retailer’s fault, but unfortunately they still attribute their bad experience beyond the buy button to the brand.

We know, from recent research, that 83 percent of customers said they expect regular communication about their purchases and 65 percent said they’d avoid going back to a company that wasn’t upfront and prompt about communicating issues like late deliveries.

Keeping in contact with customers about important order news plays a key role in making them feel better if something has gone wrong. In fact, a Narvar benchmark report found customers who requested additional SMS or Facebook Messenger notifications about shipping and delivery ultimately rated their brand experience 18 percent higher than those getting fewer alerts.

By not ‘ghosting’ – in other words, ignoring – customers after they’ve made a purchase and by being a proactive communicator, brands and retailers will automatically gain customers’ trust. In fact, if retailers and brands handle delivery ‘disasters’ well they can often come out the other end in a more positive light – as a true customer service hero.

This is called Service Recovery Paradox, or SRP, and it’s when a customer feels better about a brand when they’ve resolved an issue with their order. But SRP is more than just a reminder to resolve a customer’s problem quickly, easily and with a real or virtual smile – It’s about the importance of engaging and communicating openly and transparently with consumers throughout a purchase or returns journey.

Beware of the contact to order ratio

Customer service teams’ time is best spent solving complex issues – not handling endless questions on the whereabouts of an order or return. If teams are getting lots of these types of calls, customers are sending a clear message to the retailer or brand that their communication strategy needs improving.

Customer care success is having a low contact to order ratio. For fast-fashion retailers like Missguided,, and PrettyLittleThing, this is often a key KPI as they focus on driving improvements that reduce operational costs.

A large volume of WISMO or WISMR requests made to the customer service team wastes resources, as they are easily solvable issues that can be automated with the right technology. By lowering the number of these calls, retailers and brands free up customer service teams to focus on more high-value interactions – ones that can turn a negative situation into a delightful one and keep customers coming back for more.

Of course, if every step of the shipping and delivery process is smooth, customer engagement is easy. Updates such as: “Your package has shipped!” and “Almost there!” or “Your parcel is ready to collect” will put eagerly waiting customers at ease.

But when it’s not possible, head off complaints before they do damage to relationships by proactively managing customer expectations with honest, realistic communications and alerts. With most complaints coming after the sale, it’s critical not to ignore the service customers are given post-purchase. With the right technology in place, retailers and brands will experience far less complaints – and cut down customer service costs – a win, win for brand and customer.

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