The importance of cooperation when managing customer complaints2021-12-10
In his doctoral thesis, Proactivity in Service Failure and Service Recovery, Jasenko Arsenovic has focused on the process of managing customer complaints.
Taking care of your customers is at the core of the retail business. A greeting or just a friendly smile can make people open their wallets a little bit more. The first 30 seconds in a store is crucial for the customer’s impression of the place. But it is possible to rectify a bad first impression.
- My study mainly focuses on the process of managing customer complaints, with regard to both subtle and more clear instances of service failure. On such occasions, both customers and employees need to try and make a recovery situation happen, so that the problem can be solved.
In one of the studies, Jasenko Arsenovic examined the effects of customers receiving affirmation within 30 seconds after entering a store. He found that a lack of expected “small details” can have big consequences for several financially important customer responses.
- In a series of studies, we found that the lack of a subtle but expected interaction can have far-reaching consequences. This is why some kind of recovery is needed. My research shows that through a proactive behaviour on behalf of the employees, following the initial meeting with the customer, they can restore the customer’s positive impression of both the employees and the company.
How hard must the staff work to regain the customer’s trust?
- A lot is required of the employees in order for the customer to recover a positive view of the staff and the store as a whole, if they have initially failed to give the customer affirmation. At least three or more actions are required later on.
One example is when customers have to wait. If the employees act proactively, it matters less if the customers are serviced right away or if they have to wait. If the customers are less proactive, the waiting will have a bigger impact on the customer’s experience.
This is a huge field with so many studies - what makes your research stand out?
- Looking specifically at customer complaints is a fairly isolated phenomenon. It is relatively simple to study, so consequently there is a lot of research on the subject. My contribution is a broader perspective.
It primarily comprises two things. Initially, people think that they just want the problem to be solved and that it does not matter how, as long as they do not have to do anything. In contrast to this, several of my studies show that customers who can participate actively in the process and cooperate to reach a solution, are more likely to be satisfied. One large survey study, for example, showed that when compensation is involved, a close collaboration is needed for the compensation to have any effect. So one of the aspects that stands out about my research is that cooperation is important.
The other aspect is the focus on the small details in the service meetings. Previous research has focused on faults in the core service itself. In a series of studies, I found that this can depend on very subtle things. This is primarily what my thesis contribute with.
I also think that I add the perspective that consumers, even in less than optimal situations, want to participate and that businesses should not be so afraid of including the customer in the customer complaints process.
How far are businesses prepared to go in order to make the customers satisfied?
- There are many stories about how it is more profitable to try and retain customers rather than get new ones. At the same time, some studies show that it is beneficial if certain customers leave the organisation in one way or another. So it is healthy for the organisation’s long-term profitability to get rid of disgruntled customers.
I think that businesses want to optimise this and have a good understanding of their customers. Many are starting to realise that consumers are alike. I found that if you have previously visited and shopped much in a store, you will act differently in case of service failure. Furthermore, in a large-scale study I found that customers who have a strong relationship with a company, tend to find other aspects in the customer complaint process important, compared to the average consumer.