Use complaints to improve your business

In the office we were having a discussion about telephone systems and it was interesting to note that everyone was unanimous that one company was the worst in customer care and that is? …………. You guessed it right first time – that was BT. Now I find that interesting for a number of reasons.

In the first place have you ever tried any other telephone company, like for example Talk Talk or NTL, or any of the mobile phone companies. Billing is wrong, they get the order wrong, it does not work and sometimes you even get to talk to Mumbai. So it seems to be sort of an industry standard – so not a good excuse for BT.

Secondly, whatever you say about BT, they try to fix any problem you may have and I have yet to have whatever I get from them not work. It may be delivered somewhat bizarrely or it may cost a little more, or I may have to queue for Mumbai, but the quality of the product is very good.

So what makes me so impressed with BT. Well in the first place the consistent quality of the product, but also I was listening to the radio one evening on my way home and the then new head of BT Retail or something like that was on the show – a Dutchman, which sadly drew my attention. He said his main way of addressing the challenges of his company was to listen to all complaints. What impressed me is that he said he answered any complaint that came to him personally and he gave out his email address – I found out later that what he said was true – he did answer any complaint coming directly to him.

The reason I liked this is that in every company I have managed I have always insisted on all complaints coming to me. This was not to catch people out, but it was to find the weaknesses in our product offering. I kept logs of types of complaints and looked for ways of managing the problem away. I also made it a point to personally always respond, which got me the loyalty of many customers. By being on top of complaints I could work towards improving our product continuously.

A business colleague thought I was crazy as I would rapidly be snowed under. Well the fact is I was not and if I had been, it would have been a good indication that my business was in trouble. The good news – when we sold the business the purchaser later told a friend of mine that our business was the cleanest one his company had ever bought – perhaps I should have charged him more then!

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