- Service & Complaints Guides
- A Practical Guide to Handling Consumer Complaints
- Best Practices in Handling Customer Complaints
- A Guide for Consumer Complaints Management
- 6 Steps to Achieve Customer Service Excellence
"If you don't measure results, you can't tell success from failure."(7)
David Osborne and Ted Gaebler
Success for commercial companies is long term profitability, generated by maximizing customer satisfaction and loyalty. While the primary goal of government is to provide services to citizens, over the long term success is also generated by maximizing customer/citizen satisfaction and loyalty and earning the public trust. In both arenas we must know what our customers expect, we must know how well we are meeting those expectations, we must know what problems our customers encounter, we must know how much these problems cost us to respond to and how much they impact customer satisfaction. Finally we must change our processes to eliminate those problems. The best-in-business organizations reduce their costs and increase their profits by using the following.
Key Performance Measures
The benchmarking partners use a variety of measures to assess the performance of their complaint handling systems. These measures are part of a balanced scorecard--a set of organizational performance measures which includes such bottom line measures as return on investment and sales, and compliance rates for regulatory agencies, measures of overall customer satisfaction, financial and other measures.
Performance measures are dynamic. They change as goals are met, improvements are made, priority customer segments are identified, and more predictive measures are developed. Companies with more mature measurement and complaint handling systems described changes over time in the measures that they used. In the past, individual employee performance was measured and individual awards were given. Today performance is more often measured for groups or teams and individuals receive team awards. Many companies and agencies began measuring customer satisfaction several years ago. They measure customer satisfaction not only with their products and services, but also with their complaint resolution process.
Our partners had accomplished significant changes in key measures. For example one highly technical organization decreased the average number of days it takes to resolve a complaint from 55 to 19 days. A second organization reduced the time required to resolve cases from 27 to 6 days, well below their standard of 15 days.
Timeliness and Efficiency
The best-in-business organizations measure timeliness with a strong focus on first-call resolution or on-line resolution and they average an 85 percent resolution on the first contact for all calls received. Timeliness standards vary by complexity and by industry but were specific--e.g. resolution within 14 days, response within five business days. At one company, the customer is asked to set the deadline for an answer to the problem. The deadline is entered in the system and becomes part of the company's commitment to the customer. The customer is notified if the deadline cannot be met. A tracking system monitors the status of open cases. Preventive measures are more difficult, although some organizations quantified "calls avoided" and other complaint-prevention strategies. Examples of measures and some high-end norms include:
- First call/contact resolution: 85% average for all calls/contacts received.
- Backlog: 0%
- Cycle time - based on customer expectation
- Call avoidance - through customer education
Benchmarking partners see quality and customer satisfaction as their first priority and a variety of measures are used to track the performance of the complaint handling system from the customer's perspective. Overall levels of satisfaction with how a complaint was handled are often tracked using survey responses from customers who have made complaints. A variety of other qualitative characteristics are measured, such as whether the parties understood the decision and whether they felt that they had been treated fairly. The best-in-business continually monitor customer expectations for and satisfaction with their complaint resolution system.
Call Center Measures
Organizations responding to complaints through call centers use a variety of measures:
- Average speed of answer: e.g. , 10 seconds or less
- Abandoned call rate: 2-3%
- Busy rate: less than 1%
- Service level (total calls less busy signals and abandoned calls): 98%
- First call resolution (one agent/no transfers)
- Queue waiting time: less than 60 seconds
- On hold waiting time less than 15 seconds
- Team leaders typically monitor 5-10 calls per month for each front-line employee.
Note: For further information see NPR's Benchmarking report titled, Best Practices in Telephone Service.
Correspondence Center Measures
Organizations responding to written complaints, use measures:
- Average response time for standard or information responses
- Average response time for specialized/individual responses
- Cycle time for each type of response
All the benchmarking partners track work load through measures such as numbers of calls, complaints or letters. However, they are cautious about how these numbers, especially numbers of complaints, are interpreted. Is it good or bad that the number of complaints goes up in a given time period? Does it reflect more effective marketing of the complaint system? The introduction of a new product? A problem with educational material? Repeat calls from people trying to get a response?
If it has been difficult to complain and an organization makes it easier, the number of complaints should increase initially. Then, as complaint data and other customer feedback are used to eliminate underlying problems, the number of complaints should decline. The best companies do everything they can to encourage complaints and as a result they greatly reduce the number of complaints received.
Employee satisfaction is considered to be a key indicator of productivity and customer satisfaction. Best-in-business organizations track employee satisfaction through the use of employee satisfaction surveys and/or through predictive indicators, such as:
- Employee satisfaction survey results
- Attrition rates of employees
- Training hours in customer service per employee
- When service is good and the organization's culture encourages teamwork, both customers and employees are happy.
- Best-in-business companies listen to the voice of the customer and the voice of the employee.
- What you measure is what you get.
- Customers who have minor problems that are promptly and effectively handled are more loyal than customers who never have a problem.
How Does Your Organization Measure up?
- How does your organization measure customer satisfaction for your overall service?
- How do you measure your workload?
- How does your organization listen to the voice of the employee, who directly serves the customer?
Table of Contents
- Executive Summary
- Leadership Strategies for Satisfying Customers
- Information and Analysis
- Human Resource Development and Management
- Managing Customer Expectations and Satisfaction
- Complaint Process Management
- Business Results
- Appendix I: Reinventing Complaint Resolution
- Entire Guide