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Developing A Customer Complaint System

By Jose Sanchez
Posted Thursday, February 10, 2005

Background

The company was experiencing an increase in the number of customer complaints and an increase in the cost of processing them and we were hired to analyze the current situation and develop recommendations to increase the effectiveness of the process of administering and resolving the complaints.

Identify Customer Requirements

A consultant was assigned to the design of customer service systems and complaint processes, and who had done extensive work in QFD (Quality Function Deployment), which is a methodology that analyzes the needs of the customer and integrates them with the company processes to ensure the needs are met.

The first task was to identify what the customers' requirements were for complaint handling and how well customers felt their complaints were resolved. This involved conducting interviews with customers who had filed a recent complaint.Customers were asked to talk about their experience with the complaint handling process.

The purpose of this exercise was to:

determine positive and negative incidents in the complaint handling process

determine important information regarding the customer's feelings about the resolution of his/her complaint

identity the main reasons for deficiencies in the process

develop suggestions on how to improve the system.

Review Existing Complaint Process

The review of the process started` by developing a complaint management questionnaire that was administered to all complaint handlers. This provided a view of the complaint handling process across all departments of the company and at the same time it identified areas for improvement. An operations study was performed on the current complaint handling process.

A Service plan was developed that detailed the complete current process for a customer reporting a complaint to the company. A Serviceplan shows a cross sectional view of what is happening to all participants of the process at each step. This includes the customer, front line personnel, support personnel, other departments, and outside regulatory agencies.

With the Service plan it is easy to see escalation points and interfaces to other personnel and departments. This is critical information to understand when streamlining a process.

Other aspects of the process were analyzed, such as where do the customers call first to report a complaint, how do they find the number to call, and how many calls did they have to make before the complaint was resolved.

Analysis of Complaint Data

A complete analysis of complaint data for the past four years was conducted. Starting at the beginning of this process, a review was conducted of what information was being captured from the interaction between the complaint handler and the customer.

The review continued by investigating how the complaint data itself was captured and logged into a complaint database.We also looked at what types of reports were generated from complaint data and the frequency of distribution.

We also analyzed the claims data, searching for potential causes for the claims and the trend and frequency of claims. The data revealed certain tendencies that indicate that a new method for the administration of claims would have positive effects.

Recommendations

Aa synthesis was developed of the analysis, investigations, and review of the activities associated with the claims process in the holding company. Based on this, several recommendations emerged which were customized to the specific needs of each of the subsidiaries.

The recommendations included:

establish a Centralized Center

negotiate with the regulatory agencies in various states so they can direct the customers with complaints to the Center

establish stronger links with the service recovery process and the Center

establish diagnostic activities to prevent future complaints

implement prevention planning establish targets for complaint reductions

The new system for administration and resolution of complaints has resulted in:

more effective and timely resolution of customers' complaints

focus on prevention and avoidance of recurring problems

integration of the different work units involved in the claims process

reduction of costs associated with the handling of claims

increased customer satisfaction

About the Author
Managing Partner, Management Resources Inc.