This is how you can turn complaints into positives for your business

Elizabeth Beattie

At one stage or another, every single business receives complaints. While at first glance complaints can seem like all bad news, when handled in a way that is productive and proactive, the results of this feedback can actually be incredibly positive.

Taking the time to reflect on the motivations behind internal and external complaints and the potential friction points within your business provides you with indications as to where and how you can improve the way your business functions. There’s also an added bonus; being receptive to change and feedback illustrates that your business is staff and customer focused and that you value others’ input and experiences of your business, which is always a good thing!

From inside your business

Your internal experts (your staff) know your business' inner workings well – they know exactly what is helping them meet deadlines and produce good work on a daily basis, and what is hampering this process. When a staff member takes the time to make a complaint, chances are they’ve already expended a lot of time and mental energy contemplating exactly what they’re taking issue with. A recent whitepaper by PeakEmployee highlighted the importance of businesses listening to staff in order to retain employees and avoid costly high staff turnover. Safe to say, it pays to make sure your staff feel able to discuss their workplace problems.

"Safe to say, it pays to make sure your staff feel able to discuss their workplace problems."

By learning what barriers your staff experience and working to minimise or remove these, you can work with your staff to improve their working environment. When businesses are going through a period of quick growth things change quickly; processes, expectations, technology, and it’s important to reassess and take note of how this affects everyone involved.

From outside your business

As anybody who has worked in customer service can attest, customer complaints are unpredictable and varied, to business owners and managers however, they can often be quite useful. Customer complaints are generally motivated by a disconnect between expectations versus experience and types of complaints can be broken down into two categories – 1. Venting, and 2. Requiring reparations or change. If you’re experiencing a lot of customers venting – it’s worth considering why this occurs and how to best eradicate this problem early. Customer venting can be a symptom of poor customer service, poor quality, faulty goods, tech fails or completely random events. If you’re experiencing venting regularly – it’s worth assessing the complete customer journey and pinpointing potential friction points along the way.

"Customer complaints are generally motivated by a disconnect between expectations versus experience."

Ensuring that there is a record of customer complaints and assessing them or ‘mining’ them for helpful information allows you to formulate strategies and processes that will improve the overall experience for all of your customers. If you’re experiencing a lot of customers demanding change or wanting compensation however, this is often much more straightforward. Patterns of the same complaints or same negative results are a red flag for any business, so utilising feedback (and complaints) to detect the root cause can help define these problems allowing them to be tackled much more easily.

Elizabeth Beattie

Elizabeth Beattie is a freelance journalist and writer living in Melbourne. In her spare time she takes photos. You can tweet her via @Eliz_Beattie