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Three ways to track customer complaints and feedback

My company is looking for a way to uncover unvoiced customer complaints – do you have any suggestions for how we should do this?

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To uncover unvoiced customer complaints, first, employ a policy we call "complaint discovery." Constantly work to obtain customer feedback, and ask whether the customer has any complaints or suggestions for future improvements at regular intervals. In addition, ask this question after any unusual or significant event or transaction occurs with a customer. For example, when a customer has to return a product for a replacement, or when a customer does something unusual, contact the customer after a few days, and simply ask if he or she felt you met their needs, and if there anything else you can do. Do not turn this into a complicated, lengthy customer interview.

Second, you can use simple customer feedback survey tools, like Fred Reichheld's Net Promoter Score (NPS), championed by SatMetrix. There are pluses and minuses to using this metric and a number of analysts have leveled criticisms at the more ambitious claims that some have made for it, but on balance we feel it is worth the trip – it's a simple metric to compile, and above all, it's simple to explain to management. You can read a more comprehensive review of the advantages and disadvantages of NPS, and you can see some of the academic papers and arguments on both sides of the issue, on the 1to1 blog.

And third, in an age when more and more customers are using interactive technologies to talk with other customers, you should be monitoring social media sites, including blogs and customer review sites, for any mention of your firm, your brand or your service. You need to actively take charge of seeking out those who make complaints public and try to solve their problems to their satisfaction. For an excellent overview of what is possible in the social media arena, we'd recommend Paul Gillin's very practical and useful book, The New Influencers.

This was first published in October 2008

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