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What I learned judging this year’s UK Complaint Handling Awards (2018)

by OmniTouch International OmniTouch International No Comments

This year I had the great opportunity to judge at the UK Complaint Handling Awards, covering the latest in complaint handling practices.

After my return from the event my colleagues and friends asked me, Marcus, what did you learn?

First, I had the chance to meet hundreds of people across various industries, including Telcos, Banks, Insurances, Utility providers and many Government agencies.

That’s always one of the great things about participating at an Awards event.

The complaint handling practices shared in this article come from my role as a Judge.

As a Judge, I had the chance to meet all the Entrants, read their written submissions and listen to their respective face to face presentations to the panel.

As a result I learned some of the latest complaint handling practices out there in award winning Organizations.

Across all the Complaint Handling Team Entrants, 3 important things stood out 

There were 3 key complaint handling practices that I picked up from interacting with all the Complaint Handling Teams.

To improve the Customer complaint handling ‘practice’ within their Organization, they focused on:

  1. Analysing data from the Customer point of view
  2. Improving internal & external processes to reduce complaint volumes & time
  3. Targeting the Ownership of the complaint

Let me give some more detail on each learning

1. Analysing data from the Customer point of view

The Complaint Handling Teams indicated that they analyzed thousands of recorded calls, reviewed piles of surveys and read through thousands of emails and contact forms submitted by Customers.

Their strategic purpose was clear – to understand their Voice of the Customer.

The Complaint Handling Teams told us that, though other departments and functions did their own sets of analyses, they felt that pure focus on the Voice of Customer was missing.

So they created their own analysis function.

Guess, how important is it to the Customer that you use their names three or five times during a call?

Isn’t it more important to listen and understand what their concern or matter is?

Entrants started to read between the lines – from the Customer point of view – and acted on what they learned.

2. Improving internal & external processes to reduce complaint volumes & time

Equipped with the results of their analyses, the Complaint Handling Team went to their Management to propose changes to processes or rules that caused Customer discomfort.

Some of the process changes the Complaint Handling Teams shared were –


They took out the Average Handling Time to measure the Agent’s performance.

Agents suddenly had the freedom to listen, to react and find with the Customer a solution.

Escalation processes decreased dramatically.  Agents started to become more personal in their conversations.

Frontliners & Agents were officially empowered.

They were given the power to decide on the spot what to do for the Customer instead of getting permission from their superiors.

That helped to ease processes for the customer and complaint could be resolved during one contact.

Adding empowerment to the job makes it more interesting, enjoyable and challenging as well.

Some Complaint Handling Teams introduced new technology into the Contact Centres to support staff members.

Technology was introduced to support Team members to read the Customer’s history, react proactively, share information with other departments and schedule follow ups.

Training around the new technology and processes was scheduled and conducted so Employees were prepared before using the newsolutions.

That eased the transition for the Customer and held back stress on the Employees.

Interestingly, many complaints stemmed from questions about bills and statements.

The Complaint Handling Teams shared they were in the process of breaking this big topic down into workable parts.

3. Owning the Complaint

The Complaint Handling Teams shared was how important the concept of ownership was to complaint resolution.

That took one of two forms.

The Customer gets either one point of contact to deal with them all the way through.

Or the Customer history is made available to everyone in the Organization, and they are tasked to work together to resolve the issue.

While technology supported or ‘helped’ it was the process and the people that put things into action.

This really impressed me.

In closing

This year’s UK Complaint Handling Awards (2018) have shown that Listen & Understanding the Customer’s Voice, more accessibility of data to Agents, simpler processes and taking ownership, lead to big improvements in Customer Experience.

Aside from the many KPIs, like NPS, that were presented, the most impressive part was the presentation was the gathered feedback from real Customers.

These Customers’ shared how impressed they were about the good care (“Ownership”), the easy processes (“History availability/System improvements”) and someone listened and heard their issues (Data analytics).

The Customers felt they were heard and more importantly helped.  They seemed to like using email to share their compliments.

In all cases, these simple changes reduced dramatically painful Customer Journeys throughout the organisations.

The Customer experience score for the organization went up dramatically.

I am glad to share that investment in data analytics, new processes and training in Frontline training have really paid off.

All the Complaint Handling Teams were able to demonstrate a financial ROI to back up their work.

They all retained Customers, gained new business and got promoted by their now happy Customers to others.

Isn’t this reason enough to start thinking on this?

Thank you for reading!

Marcus von Kloeden

A Culture of Fear & Compliance are poor tools for delivering a great Customer experience

by OmniTouch International OmniTouch International No Comments

This article proposes that a culture of fear and compliance are poor tools for delivering a great Customer Experience.

In the markets where I work most often, compliance still rules in Customer interactions.

Say this, wear that – act like this, act like that.

One of my students – who had worked as a concierge in a high-end Singapore shopping centre – told us that every morning their boss would line them up and critique all aspects of their grooming.

He told us the experience was a fearful one – and Team Members would begin their shift with a nagging unpleasant feeling.

Another student shared that they had been instructed to say, “Will you allow me to put you on hold?” vs. “May I put you on hold?”

It was never made clear why this use of language was so important to the Customer experience.

But there was a team of eagle-eared Quality Assurance analysts who fixated on language use and tidings of woe to the Team Member who in some way mixed up the verbiage.


Sure, compliance has its place – but not when it takes on Darth Vader-like proportions

Recently I had a meeting with a high-end hospitality company.

The course under discussion was how to help Team Members better interact with high-end VIP Guests through conversational engagement.

The challenge was that Team Members were either silent, monosyllabic or overly formal in the presence of ‘high rollers’.

The position I took was that in order to create a better Customer experience for these Guests, it was going to be necessary to back-off a bit on the compliance – and by association the culture of fear.

Perhaps it was time to allow for greater flexibility.

The whole room went silent.

You would have thought I had just ordered a double bacon cheeseburger in a vegetarian restaurant.

All eyes turned to the Senior in the room.

After a long pause, the Senior intoned that compliance was the most important aspect of their Service delivery and with that, I knew the conversation was over.

A culture of fear had shown itself.

I worry that to this day, these folks would rather look at their shoes than engage conversationally with a Guest.


Branding & the Customer experience

It is completely understandable that an organization would aim to live its brand promise.

The right opening, the right phrases, the right ‘look’ all matter.

They have their place in overall quality initiatives.

The problem comes in when these behaviors – and discussion around these behaviors – crowd out discussion about what’s really important.

It is well understood that what matters most in CX delivery is the Customer’s perception or ‘feeling’ about what they went through.

Clearly no Customer is going to get all excited about your greeting – or the fact that your Staff’s socks matched the color of their shoes.

When it comes to compliance, there’s very little opportunity to differentiate the experience.

But if you really consider your brand promises – either explicit or implicit – along with your values, mission, vision and the like – there’s a lot of rich context to develop powerful CX standards for conversation.

Let’s ask

The moment the Team begins to ask themselves – ‘What can we do to exceed the Customer’s emotional expectations’ for this kind of visit, call, email, live chat and so on’ – well that’s where the magic lives.

Thanks for reading!

Daniel Ord

Daniel Ord





What Service People can learn from “The Princess & the Pea”

by OmniTouch International OmniTouch International No Comments

The rise of digital interactions has generated a corresponding rise in the volume and intensity of difficult Customer situations.

The story of “The Princess & the Pea” has some lessons on how to deal with difficult Customer situations.

The Princess & The Pea

In the story of the Princess and the Pea, a Prince seeks to find and marry a ‘real’ Princess.

Though there were a lot of young ladies that claimed to be Princesses out there, something seemed to be wrong with each one.

It was hard to find out if any of them were, in fact, a real Princess.

One night, during a severe thunderstorm, there was a knock at the castle door.

Outside, there stood a young lady.  Wet and dripping she asked for shelter for the night.

The Prince’s mother, the Queen, decided to test if this was indeed a real Princess.

“We’ll soon find out,” she said to herself.

She went into the bedroom, took all the bedding off the bedstead, and laid a pea on the bottom-most mattress.

Then she proceeded to lay another 20 mattresses on top of the pea, and finally 20 more comforters on top of the mattresses for good measure.

“Here you go young lady”, she said.

“You can sleep here.”

The next morning, the King, Queen and Prince entered the bedroom where the young lady had slept and  the Queen asked, “How did you sleep?”

To that the young lady replied –

“Oh, very badly!”

“I have scarcely closed my eyes all night…

Heaven only knows what was in the bed, but I was lying on something so hard, that today I am black and blue all over. It’s horrible!”

Imagine the worst NPS score ever.

Now they all knew that she was a indeed a real Princess.

Only a level of sensitivity that great could feel the pea below all that bedding.

I think there is a valuable lesson from this story.

Especially those of us in the Frontline and who deal with difficult Customer situations.

Dealing with difficult Customer situations

When we teach how to deal with difficult Customer situations, we ask participants to define or describe a difficult Customer situation.

Common responses include –

  • They are so demanding…
  • Why do Customers repeat the same thing over and over…
  • Our Customers  are persistent and refuse to understand…

Then I usually ask –

“Ok – did you have any fear about your physical safety as a result of what you just described?”

” Um…no…”

“Did you experience any emotional damage as a result of what you just described?”

“Not really…”

“Then is it possible that perhaps, in this moment, you’re responding a bit like the Princess with a pea?”

Usually we all laugh here.

The role of emotional maturity

In the world of Customer Service – or Corporate life in general – you’re bound to come across people that are demanding, irritating and unpleasant.

We can always thank our parents, our teachers, a higher power or whatever it may be, that we don’t behave that way.

That we don’t look at the world from an unhappy vantage point.

That we don’t operate as if somebody owes us a living.

According to research, people that succeed in life have high levels of emotional intelligence.

And the most predominant characteristic of emotional intelligence – as isolated by the researchers – is self-control.

Self control

Self control involves not taking things too personally or with too much sensitivity – especially if we’re not in any physical or emotional danger.

It’s not about what we go through – and in Customer Service we go through a lot.

It’s about how we choose to respond to what we go through.

And that includes difficult Customers.

Thank you Hans Christian Andersen

Hans Christian Andersen’s story is a classic and you have to give it to the characters in the story.

She got a Prince and he got his Princess.

The Queen can return to matters of state – or whatever it is that Queens in fairy stories do.

But getting back to real life my advice is – stop looking for the pea!


Daniel & M&C Class