Complaint reaction encompasses all complaint management activities that the customer perceives during the complaint handling process. These activities include the direct contact with the complainants, the decision about the problem solution and the communication with the customer during the processing of the complaint.
Regarding dealing with complainants, basic rules of conduct must be followed both for the direct conversation and for responding to written complaints. In direct conversations with complainants, five typical phases must be observed: the greeting phase, the aggression-reduction phase, the conflict-settlement phase, the problem-solution phase and the conclusive phase. When responding in writing to complaints, the following content-related aspects must be taken into account: initial wording, problem repetition, conflict settlement, problem solution and concluding wording. In addition, special groups of complainants and complaints deserve particular attention. These include repeat, multiple and follow-up complainants, grumblers and grousers as well as scattered complaints, complaints to top management, complaints about employees, and threats.
Three basic groups of measures are available for the decision about the problem solution: financial, tangible and intangible. They have different consequences for the complainants’ satisfaction. Under certain conditions, the complainants’ demand can be fulfilled without an individual case examination.
Most complaints are considered to be justified from the customers’ perspective; even if the complaints are objectively unjustified, it can make economic sense to react fairly. A differentiation of the complaint reaction according to customer value should only be considered with regard to the type of compensation, but not to the behavior in the customer contact situation.
The communication during the complaint handling process is very important to the success of restoring customer satisfaction. Therefore, all forms of communication (confirmation of receipt, intermediate replies, final replies and follow-up contacts) must be carefully planned and the quality of the complaint correspondence and conversations must be reviewed systematically and regularly.
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