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Complaint Management and Service Recovery

  • ID: 40942
  • Report
  • May 2000
  • American Productivity & Quality Center, APQC
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Sponsoring companies participated in a planning session via a conference call, completed data-gathering surveys and attended a symposium held at IBM Canada in Toronto, Ontario that included an on-site interview. Ten organizations participated in the study six sponsored the study and four participated
as benchmarking partners-those identified by the study team as having strong complaint management practices.

Study Focus

Drawing input from RDC and PAG experts and secondary research literature, the
study team identified four key areas to research. These areas guided the design of the data collection instruments and were the base from which key findings developed. A brief description of the key areas is provided below.
Developing a Complaint-Friendly Culture n What is corporate management’s philosophy for dealing with customer complaints?
- What is call center management’s philosophy for dealing with customer complaints?
- How do you create a complaint-friendly culture?
- How do you develop a complaint policy?
- How do your customers know their complaints are welcome?
- How do you train reps to listen?
- How do you measure successful complaint handling?

Implementing Complaint Tools
- What access channels (Internet, e-mail, telephone, etc.) do you give dissatisfied customers?
- What technologies streamline the acceptance of complaints?
- Is the collection of verbatim complaints important?
- How can verbatim complaints be collected efficiently?
- How do you overcome the challenges and barriers to the collection of verbatim
- How should complaints be sorted and reported for best use?
- What should be included in a service recovery policy?
- What level of empowerment should reps have to satisfy an unhappy customer?
- What is the optimal escalation process?
- What processes are in place for service recovery?
- Are specially trained groups of reps deployed for service recovery?
- If specially trained reps handle service recovery, what is their level of empowerment?

Taking Action on Complaints
- How do you determine the level of complaints that trigger corrective action?
- How do you hold other departments accountable for their actions?
- How do you develop action plans around complaint information?
- How do you follow up with customers after action is taken?

Criteria FOR Selection of Best-practice Companies

Best-practice partners were selected on their ability to:
1. demonstrate success in service recovery,
2. demonstrate success in making improvements based on complaint information,
3. understand the value of customers and have a complaint-friendly philosophy and culture,
4. have a process in place for action planning based on complaints,
5. have an effective escalation process,
6. recognize complaints from multiple access channels,
7. handle verbatim complaints efficiently,
8. have effective rep training for listening to customers and collecting complaints,
9. influence other departments to take action on complaints, and
10. have a customer feedback system based on complaints.


The study used Apqc’s consortium benchmarking four-phase methodology-planning,
collecting, analyzing/reporting, and adapting.


The planning phase began with a two-hour conference call conducted in September
1999. Sponsors, subject matter experts, and the Apqc study team finalized the study scope and best-practice selection criteria during this phase.


The data collection tools used to gather information include:
- Preliminary Questionnaire: quantitative questions, designed to collect objective and quantitative data (completed by partners only)
- Detailed Questionnaire: quantitative questions, designed to collect objective and quantitative data (completed by sponsors and partners) and
- Site Visit Discussion Guide: qualitative questions, designed to collect qualitative information about targeted aspects of an organization’s complaint management and service recovery processes (completed by IBM Canada).
On November 29-30, 1999, the sponsors, partners, subject matter experts, and the study team attended a symposium in Toronto, Ontario. The symposium consisted of bestpractice and expert presentations and included a site visit to IBM Canada.

Analyzing and Reporting

The study team worked with the subject matter experts to analyze the information collected during the symposium. They discovered 14 key findings and reported them electronically to the study participants.


It is hoped that partners and sponsors will take the findings into their organizations to facilitate improvement initiatives. Apqc and the subject matter experts look forward to supporting the study participants through active and ongoing networking.
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Executive Summary 1<BR><BR>Key Findings 6<BR><BR>Expert Presentations<BR>- Cynthia Grimm, TARP (Technical Assistance Research Programs) 13<BR>- Kathryn Jackson, Response Design Corporation 24<BR>- Daphne Gold, Pearl Advisory Group 34<BR><BR>Partner Profiles and Presentations<BR>- IBM Canada 40<BR>- Sears 49<BR>- USAA 58<BR><BR>Suggested Resources for Further Study 63<BR><BR>Disclaimer 64
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Note: Product cover images may vary from those shown