Businesses all over the world make huge efforts and spend billions of dollars to deliver outstanding service, ensure their customer satisfaction and crucially, to avoid complaints. After all, a complaint is a failure; it means that things went wrong and customers are unhappy. And in a world of information instantly shared and received, the smallest mishap can make global news, retweeted or shared thousands of times and ruining the good reputation for which a business might have worked for years. It is no surprise that the majority of us in the business of service delivery hate complaints. Now wait a moment I would say I have a Love / Hate relationship as on many a occasion it was through handling guest complaints that I built long lasting relationships and friendships – so there is always a potential upside or a gift through a complaint and this is perhaps one you had not thought of. I thank those friends who through their initial complaint we became friends.

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Even companies perched on top of customer satisfaction rankings for years, despite their relentless pursuit of excellence, every now and then, get a complaint.Much has been written about the importance of service recovery. Everyone knows with the right recovery, even the worst situation can be turned into a service winner. Teams are drilled on procedures and techniques, and much money is spent on complementary services and freebies to pacify unhappy clients. Great recovery can work wonders. But what if I told you that a smart leader will always treat a complaint as a gift? A bit unwanted, but very every bit as valuable, for another 3 reasons apart from the very personal reason I just gave you :

1. A complaint is an early warning sign for issues with procedures.

Service delivery is almost always tied to strictly implemented and adhered to policies and procedures. They allow for inconsistencies to be eliminated from delivery of customer experience, and ensure that each customer is serviced in accordance with the brand promise and standards. So when customers complain, a good leader will always go back and investigate what went wrong with the policy or procedure in question. Perhaps, as time went by, it became outdated? Perhaps customer profile shifted and it no longer reflects their needs? Perhaps it is too complex or too difficult or impractical for the team to follow, and needs simplification and review. In any case, a complaint is a reason to dust off ops manual and make sure that it is a living, breathing document that enables outstanding service.

2. A complaint allows for laser focus training and development efforts.

Closely monitoring complaints for trends in training needs allows companies to make sure that those dollars are spent where it matters. This doesn’t only go for customer service skills. Complaints often identify leadership skills gaps in areas such as communication, performance management or even hiring.

3. A complaint shows potential employee and team morale issues.

It is not likely that one complaint is a harbinger of employee unhappiness. If, however, a generally well performing employee or a normally effective team all of the sudden starts generating complaints, a good leader takes it as a sure fire sign that it’s time to self-evaluate. What has changed that turned stars into complaint handlers? Do they have all the tools they need? Are they engaged, listened to and are their voices taken into account? Perhaps it’s time to review business volumes and staffing needs? All of these can cause employee and team morale issues, escalating into serious customer service problems. But if detected early, swift action can nip them in the bud and put things back on track. With a engaged team – high morale and solid teamwork by a group of individuals all aiming for the same goal ones complaints will remain at a minimum

So, with the above in mind, next time you get a complaint, don’t get frustrated get out there and listen, resolve & correct. The fact that you have that chance is already a bonus and reduces potential brand damage immensely. So amigos get busy and take full advantage of this unique gift.