Customer Complaints Shuffled Off to a 3rd Party?

Customer Complaints? Don’t Push Them Off

I recently came across an article that had the perspective that an answering service is a helpful way to diffuse customer complaints.  The article, Why An Answering Service is an Excellent Option to Diffuse Customer Dissatisfaction stated that having a 3rd party resource to handle complaints would be advantageous to customers calling outside of normal business hours or for the smaller businesses that may not have the resources.

Their premise is that customers would see how invested the company is in their customers that they are providing a resource for handling issues.

Please take a moment to read the article if you are so inclined.

My thoughts:

While I think the author was well intended, I strongly disagree that a third party is helpful in most situations.  Putting myself in the customer’s shoes, my immediate reaction is that I’m having to deal with an outside resource who will most likely not have the authority to fix my problem or offer a solution that is plausible.  Recently, many companies are using overseas resources to handle calls and complaints and customers have responded overwhelmingly that this is only adding to their frustration and irritation.

The best way to handle customer complaints is to plan for the resolution process internally.  The company itself, not a third party, should be listening to the customer and handling the issues.  The customer wants to know that they are being treated as a person, not a numbered consumer that will forever remain anonymous.  Internal resources must be properly trained on how to handle complaints, be genuinely empathetic, offer realistic and fair solutions, and follow up with the customer after the issue.  Depending on the size of the company, this may be assigned to a designated department, person, or be handled by the business owner themselves.

The only way to get around the impersonality of a third party is to be sure that they understand the way your business works inside and out.  They need to understand and have access to customer records or history to get a feel for the specific concern.  Above all else, they must be empowered to handle the complaint in a way that will more than satisfy the customer.  The customer will likely be already looking for a fight or frustrated by having to deal with an outside resource, but if handled correctly, it can be pulled off with the right resource.

In my personal experience, I’ve never found this to be the case.  I truly don’t mean to rant against this particular author or firm.  They may very well have excellent training and solutions for their customers.  I want to caution customer care teams and business leaders from taking the easy way out in regards to customer complaints.  They are an opportunity to make or break trust.  By all means, win that customer’s trust!

Okay, I’m off my soapbox.  How do you feel about having a third party, or an answering service, handle customer complaints?  Are there some areas you feel this would work?

Please share your thoughts and opinions here...