Find out how successful complaint management can strengthen customer relations in the long term and significantly improve service quality.
Complaint management is an important part of customer relationship management. Therefore, it does not matter which industry you work in, how big or small your projects are or how carefully you pay attention to the quality of your work. As soon as you have contact with customers, you need a mature, well-organised complaints management system.
Complaint management includes the entire procedure, i.e. all the steps and measures that a company - or a project manager - takes to respond to customer complaints.
The first fundamental objective in complaint management should be to solve the problem that the customer has. If this is achieved quickly and reliably, it strengthens customer loyalty and increases customer satisfaction. But this is not all. Every complaint also gives you an important insight into the service structure of your company. If you hear a complaint, you will know where you can improve the service - or the product - to better meet the needs of your customers. This means that every complaint automatically makes a decisive contribution to quality assurance in your company or project.
There are many ways to deal with customer complaints. In practice, the EVA-3 method in particular has proven to be a good guide for complaint management:
If the customer has a complaint, he wants to be taken seriously. Therefore, attentive listening is very important. Once you have a clear picture of the problem, you should apologise to the customer, regardless of whether you - or your team - are at fault.
The apology helps to defuse an emotional situation and the customer can calm down.
Take up the information you have received from the customer in your first answer.
In this way you show your customer not only that you have listened to him and understood his problem. You also show them that you understand their emotional situation.
For you personally, understanding also means an emotional distance where you do not relate the customer's anger to you. In this way you can always remain objective and act objectively.
Analyse the problem.
If the customer's reaction seems exaggerated to you, ask for the real reason for the excitement and let the customer finish calmly.
Once the problem has been analysed, the aim is to find the solution.
At this point it is important to act with an eye to the future, i.e. neither to resort to accusations or blame oneself nor to respond to them.
If the solution cannot be found immediately, involve the customer in finding a solution. Ask for his wishes and suggestions.
Once you have found a solution, show the customer how happy you are with it.
If a satisfactory solution is not possible - for whatever reason - you should tell the customer and express your regret.
Systematic complaint management requires professional handling.
Therefore it is important that not only you as a project or company manager can use a good complaint management method. Your employees must also be able to do it. Therefore, you should pay attention to regular complaints management for your employees. This applies especially to those of your employees who are in direct contact with customers.
This could be done through internal training or external courses where problem situations are practised using examples of complaint management, for example in role-plays.
In the complaint management system, a distinction must be made above all between direct and indirect complaint management.
All actions that are visible to the customer are called direct complaint management.
These include, for example:
In direct complaint management, you deal directly with your customer.
Methodically, you can consider the underlying process as a 4-phase complaint management:
Your customers should know who to turn to if they have had a negative experience with your company or project.
In this way you prevent dissatisfied customers from quietly and silently migrating to the competition without you realizing it in time or even knowing why it happened.
Your customer should already find the right contact person for his concern when he receives a complaint.
It is therefore important that you clearly define the responsibilities and ensure that a trained employee responds appropriately to the customer's complaint.
The aim in processing is to find a solution. At this point it is important for the customer to know that someone is dealing with his problem.
Therefore you should give the customer a time by which his request will be processed. For larger companies or projects, an automatic reply with a note that the matter will be dealt with soon is also possible.
Once a solution is found, it is up to you or your employees to communicate it to the customer.
Depending on the nature of the complaint, this may be
The indirect complaint management is internal complaint management. It deals with the causes that have led to a complaint. The aim is to improve the quality of the product or service in such a way that such problem cases can no longer occur.
The indirect process consists of the following complaint management phases:
For the evaluation it is important to collect all the information on the complaint and to analyze it. In this way you will discover any shortcomings which you can then remedy.
Controlling in complaint management consists of the following phases:
In reporting, the evaluated information is compiled in order to present it clearly to decision-makers.
In the final step, it is up to the decision-makers to assess how they want to use the knowledge gained. It is always a matter of individual cases to determine whether certain processes should be optimized or additional quality control measures introduced.
It is important to set up the complaint management process and provide a point of contact for the customer. However, it is also important to actively approach the customer if it is clear that he is dissatisfied.
This active complaint management not only helps you to receive constructive suggestions for improvement before problems can arise. It also enables you to build a stable, long-term customer relationship on which you can base your further actions.
When it comes to classic project management, agile project management or hybrid project management, complaint management plays a major role. Because especially in projects it is important to present the results that customers, investors and all stakeholders expect. The ideal way to prevent potential bottlenecks is to use project management software with foresighted resource management software. If discrepancies do occur, you must always intervene quickly and professionally to prevent further damage - for example, the termination of your project.
Complaint management is a central component of customer relationship management and should therefore be professionally implemented in every company and every project. Conflicts can often be resolved quickly so that you and your team can lead the project to success.