Managing Complaints and Feedback

Improving the Way That You Do Things

Managing Complaints and Feedback

Find out how to use feedback to improve the way that you do things.

© iStockphoto/aldomurillo

Do you view negative feedback and complaints as a learning opportunity? It's often hard to do so!

Most of us instinctively have negative reactions to complaints, whether they're internal (from co-workers, employees or managers) or external (from customers). And if the complaint is about something we did or created, or someone that we are responsible for, we can often become defensive, or view the complaint as unjustified or not our fault.

But, what exactly is a complaint? And should we view them as something negative?

In their classic customer service book, "A Complaint Is a Gift," Janelle Barlow and Claus Moller define a complaint as "a statement about expectations that have not been met." So feedback and complaints are actually really important. They're an opportunity for us to improve ourselves, our products, our services, and our processes – if we act on the feedback that we receive.

In this article, we'll explore managing complaints and feedback effectively. We'll look at different examples of complaints, and we'll identify how you can use the closed-loop feedback process to ensure that you learn from the feedback and complaints that you receive.

Types of Complaints

Many of us will receive complaints and feedback as part of our job.

For example, you might lead a customer service team whose main role is to handle customer complaints. You might work in human resources, processing internal feedback from employees and management. Or, perhaps you need to use your boss's feedback from your last performance review to improve how your team provides its monthly reports to the board.

Whatever your role, processing complaints and feedback effectively is essential for improving the way that you do things.

Benefits of Using a Feedback Process

There are several benefits of implementing a feedback process:

  • It gives your customers, service users, and your team a way to resolve problems with your product, service, or organization.
  • If set up correctly, it allows continuous feedback  . Many organizations collect feedback from their teams or customers only once a year. But collecting feedback should be a constant process, not an occasional event.
  • An effective feedback process gives you the data that you need to create real, lasting improvement. Team morale, product quality, and an organization's reputation may all improve as a result.
  • A good process helps organizations act on the feedback that they receive. This, in turn, can create a strong bond between the organization, and its employees and customers.

Closed-Loop Feedback Process

Many people spend time collecting feedback from people such as customers and employees. They may use a suggestion box or surveys, or even hire consultants to measure employee and customer satisfaction in a more scientific way.

The problem is that people often don't act on this useful feedback. Therefore, company or personal performance never improves. This is politely known as an open-loop feedback process. (Less politely, it's called a broken feedback process.)

A more effective solution to deal with feedback is a closed-loop feedback process (see Figure 1)

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