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The "gift" of a complaint

I know, it took me a while to understand what the heck was meant by the gift of a complaint, but now that I understand the power of this phrase, my business delivers better quality than ever!....Let me explain...

One of my biggest bug-bears when I walk into a childcare setting, (or any business like shops or restaurants), is getting a negative attitude from the first person I see or who greets me. Generally greetings I receive are on the whole positive, but I have experienced a range, from very friendly and welcoming, to frosty and rude and I make a point of always challenging negative attitudes wherever I experience them, not because I want to cause a fuss, I simply see it as offering them an opportunity to learn and develop the quality of their organisation.

We don't hear customer service being mentioned much in our work in the sector, not because people don't have good customer service practices, many do, but because often the focus is predominantly on "technical practice" and perhaps the subtle skills and practices that make parents and carers feel good about the setting are not as obvious.

Customer service starts from the first impression someone gets of your organisation and develops from there, so start off on the wrong foot and at best you will have a lot of work to do to recover the situation, or at worst lose a customer, (or two)!

Those of you who we have met will recognise one of our mantras, "It's all about people!"..... do you want them to be positive or negative? ... Positive of course, so how about turning that positivity into great customer service by training all staff to treat any complaint you get as a "Gift"?

Why is it a "Gift"?

By complaining the customer is actually giving you the opportunity to interact with them and sort out a problem or issue. They are giving you chance to make amends, put it right, do the right thing! They could just walk away and tell all their friends how awful you, or your staff are, which means a dent in local perceptions about your quality. So complaints left unaddressed could trigger this response. The key to enhancing your customer service levels and hence overall quality is learning how to "unwrap" the gift of the complaint to satisfy customers and continually improve your business.

So you have effective and efficient complaints procedures, right? ...ok:

  • first question, "what timescale have you set to investigate and close out the complaint?"

  • Make it as fast as possible, if you cannot do it within the day, do it the next day! Sometimes you need to investigate things and that takes a little time, but don't forget it's not about what you need it's about satisfying a customer, so do not delay!

  • second question, "do you clearly identify corrective actions to sort the immediate problem, and preventative actions to stop it happening again?

  • Lesson 1 quality assurance here.... When you get a complaint there are 2 key steps to take, firstly you need to correct the action which has caused the complaint, and then you need to prevent it happening again! The latter may mean, staff training, policy changes, disciplinary actions or whatever it takes to improve you business and prevent reoccurrence of the same problems.

  • third question, " how well do you communicate your improvements to the satisfaction of the customer and promote the improvements you have made to others?

  • Make sure you feedback to the complainant and ensure they are satisfied you have taken them seriously and done what to can.

  • I know, some people are never happy and complain all the time, if complaints are not justified deal with it. Discuss with those complaining, if it gets really bad perhaps it's time to consider parting ways with them? (not all customers are worth having!)

  • There is a massive marketing opportunity here also, (another reason a complaint is a gift!), when you have put measures in place to improve your business, put a spin on it and shout about it! You are now better than you were yesterday :)

  • So take time out to develop you complaints processes it is a critical element of management and leadership, but more importantly will up you rankings in the minds of existing and future customers!

  • Before I sign off, close your eyes, (after you have read this of course!), and think about the following in the context of your work environment.....

  • "If you allow negativity to prevail in your setting, you are indeed condoning it in a passive way"

  • ........and on a personal level...

  • "Life is 10% what happens to me and 90% of how I react to it"

  • [Charles Swindoll]

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