Martin EllinghamMartin EllinghamJune 28, 2019



This might sound like a strange question in the context of financial services, but have you ever heard of Kintsugi?

No matter if not because I’m about to explain exactly what it is – and why it matters to your complaints handling team. For those who haven’t come across it before, Kintsugi is the art of repairing broken pottery. Fixing broken pots and dishes might not sound that impressive (or seem to have much bearing on complaints and Customer Experience) but the philosophy behind it is both fascinating and highly useful.

In Kintsugi (which translates as ‘golden joinery’), the broken pottery is repaired in a specific way. The pieces are held together with a special mix of lacquer and gold powder – creating a golden seam that serves not to hide the break but highlight it. The piece of pottery is not as good as new; it wears its golden scars with pride.

New beauty: The art of Japanese Kintsugi can be applied to complaint handling

They are now part of its history and something to be cherished. Whatever caused the item to break has, instead of rendering it useless, helped it become more beautiful. For people used to seeing broken things as being at the end of their journey, it’s an interesting concept to get used to.

However, it’s a philosophy that I think can have a profound effect on how you approach complaint handling – and the entire Customer Experience.

The problem with product-driven CX

Delivering great CX is a challenging task for any company – especially in the complex world of financial services. There are so many different elements that need to come together to keep each customer happy. Some of them you won’t even have control over. After all, how can you account for the things going on in a person’s day that will influence how they interact with you?

Thankfully, overall, customers are incredibly happy with the products and services they receive from companies. The UK banking sector is above the all-sector average for customer satisfaction, so it must be getting something right.

The problem arrives when customers aren’t happy with the products and services they receive. Too many businesses build their CX around the core product. So, when this doesn’t suit the customer’s needs or doesn’t work out as planned, the company isn’t sure how to handle the situation. Sure, it has a complaints handling team, but when the sole focus of CX is on delivering a great product, there’s little any agent can do to add value or retain the customer.

The importance of repairing relationships and building customer trust

When businesses lose a customer, there’s a tendency to label each case as a ‘lost cause’. This is especially the case when a product or service hasn’t lived up to expectations because companies don’t want to be faced with their failures. I don’t mean this as a harsh criticism; it makes sense when an organisation’s outward-facing reputation is built on the success of its offering.

Customers want to purchase from a company they can trust to deliver the goods. However, businesses have less and less control over how their brand is perceived. When a customer has a poor experience, they’re easily able to post reviews online detailing exactly went wrong. There’s no way for companies to prevent this – other than to deliver the best possible CX.

Review regret: Only the best possible CX will prevent online reviews from negatively impacting your brand

In situations where customers are already unhappy, aftercare and complaint handling become vital. Too many customer relationships break down because there’s no effective way to resolve issues and mend the trust between consumer and company. This is where the following philosophy of Kintsugi could make all the difference – both to the retention and acquisition of your customers.

How to apply Kintsugi to complaints handling

As I’ve mentioned already, there are so many elements that go into creating great CX. You can’t deliver the perfect experience 100 percent of the time – it’s simply impossible. However, when things don’t go completely according to plan, you can pick up the pieces and mould them into something new; something stronger.

If you apply the idea of Kintsugi to your CX, you can change the way you look at the customer journey. Instead of hiding the issues customers have had with your products and services (again, you can’t), focus on mending these relationships through complaint resolution to make sure people come away with a positive experience of your overall business.

Resolve to evolve: Mending customer relationships is essential to positive experiences 

By accepting that the customer journey doesn’t always go smoothly, you can transform the perception of your CX and your brand. When people look at a Kintsugi bowl, they don’t focus on how it broke – they see a new, more beautiful object that has taken the place of the original. The same will be true of your CX if you have an effective complaints-handling operation in place to rebuild trust with customers who have had a less than positive experience up until the point they complain.

Creating an opportunity with complaints

If you can make golden repairs on your customer relationships, you can turn negative experiences into positive ones. As well as making those consumers more loyal to you, the approach means people are far more likely to become brand ambassadors – helping you attract new business. This is why complaints are an opportunity for financial services companies, rather than a source of shame.

To make the most of this opportunity, however, companies need to know that their complaints handling teams are operating as effectively and efficiently as possible. For an unhappy customer trying to resolve a complaint, the frustration of having to do something as simple as repeating their details and queries to several different agents is magnified hugely. It’s just one example of how poor complaints handling can exacerbate a negative CX and highlights the need for companies to get the basics right.

When a customer gets in touch to talk about their complaint (whether over the phone or online), they have to be given the confidence that their issue will be resolved as best as possible – regardless of who they talk to. This means making sure that every agent has access to up-to-date information on each case, allowing them to make progress, support the customer and take important steps towards improving the overall CX received.

The way you approach complaints in your company will make a huge difference to how successful you are. If you apply the ideals of Kintsugi to complaint handling, you’ll shift the whole focus of your CX – and your business will be better for it. However, having the right mindset is just one piece of the puzzle.



Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthMarch 11, 2019


The 2019 UK Complaint Handling Awards have taken place in London, celebrating the people and  initiatives behind some of the best customer service operations in Britain.

Hosted by Awards International – holders of an Independent Awards Standards Council Gold Trust Mark – the event saw hundreds gather at the Park Plaza Riverbank hotel last Friday, when teams of finalists made presentations to an expert panel of judges throughout the day.

Finalists were competing to secure Gold and Silver titles across 18 categories, with one Overall Winner also named for their high score at the event, which this year was sponsored by Aptean and Ecosheme, and partnered by Resolver, Henley Business School’s Henley Centre for Customer Management, and The Malcolm McDonald Academy.

Following a gala lunch, the 2019 Overall Winner title was awarded to outsourcing services firm Firstsource, which claimed Gold in the Customer Insight Strategy category. The victory built on the success of the company in last year’s awards, when along with mobile network giffgaff it won Best Personal Entertainment & Telecoms.

Other big winners this year were banking giants HSBC, which won an incredible four Gold category titles, and United Utilities, which won three Gold titles, including the highly coveted Complaint Handling Leader of the Year award for their Head of Service Recovery, Sally Ainsworth.

The 2019 roll of honour also included Wessex Water in partnership with The First Word, which won in the Best Complaint Handling Training category; One Vision Housing, which claimed Gold for Best Use of Customers’ Insight and Feedback; and Capita, whose team walked away with the Customer Relations & Remediation award.

Speaking afterwards, Awards International CEO Neil Skehel said: “What an event this has been – we are incredibly fortunate to have such a vantage point on the high standard of complaint handling services in the UK.

“So many organisations are ensuring they have a robust complaints procedure at the heart of their structure, and these awards not only celebrate the best initiatives behind that, but they also allow representatives from all of these wonderful companies to come together and inspire each other, share best practice, and ensure complaint handling continues to go from strength to strength and remains central to a quality service.”

“On behalf of Awards International I would like to offer a huge congratulations to all of our winners, and I want to thank all of our finalists for coming and competing in what is now one of the most important events in the UK’s customer service calendar.”






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