Complaint and redress mechanism requires employee empowerment

Neha Singhal

January 8, 2010

Complaint and redress mechanism forms an essential part of standard operating procedures. However, complaint and redress mechanism requires sufficient empowerment of the service provider to respond quickly to a customer’s complaint compared to standard operating procedures which requires staff to follow the procedures as they are written.

A recent experience with one of the quick service restaurants took me back to my post-graduate class of Consumer Service Standards.

We studied five essential elements of service standards, which are:

  1. A Charter of Service, including a description of the service the retailer intends to provide and, where applicable, the benefits customers are entitled to receive;
  2. Service Pledges, focusing on such elements as openness, fairness, courtesy, professionalism, etc.;
  3. Specific Delivery Targets for key aspects such as timeliness, access and accuracy;
  4. The Delivery Costs; and
  5. Redressal Mechanisms that customers can use when they feel standards have not been met.

The last, redressing complaints, is the most important and difficult aspect among these elements. It requires instant responsiveness and sufficient empowerment of staff to manage a dissatisfied customer.

Standard operating procedures requires staff to follow the procedures as they are written, whereas store staff need to immediately respond to a unique situation every time ensuring that personal judgement will be called for on every occasion.

To elaborate on how important is responsiveness and sufficient empowerment of staff; I will like to discuss a recent experience with a quick service restaurant. I will first describe my reactions as a customer to understand the consumer’s expectations and reaction when a retailer is unable to meet the same and then will analyze the same from a retailer’s and a consultant’s perspective.

I ordered for some salad which contains some soye chunks with diced vegetables in some dressings from a QSR. We quite often order from this restaurant and are quite happy with their products and services. However, this time the salad they delivered had only veggies; no soye chunks and no dressing.

So I called them back to tell that they have sent the salad without soya chunks and dressing and if they could replace the same. The boy at the reception said “Please give me your number and my boss will call you back”.

I was feeling really hungry as I didn’t eat breakfast in the morning (rather just had a toast), so in 15 min I gave them a call again which went unanswered. By now the loyalty for the restaurant and likeness for its products had evaporated. So I called again in 10 minutes to tell them to take their salad back and return the money. This time the associate was kind enough to ask if I would like to get the salad replaced, I said no you please take your salad back. Fifteen minutes latter a delivery boy came to return the money and I returned the salad.

Now let’s analyze the action and reaction of both retailer and customer to go to the root cause of the issue. The product delivered was wrong; however because of the previous good repute of the retailer the customer didn’t mind the mistake and called the retailer to replace the product. The associate at the reception took the phone number of the customer and said that store manager will return the call. Clearly, the service provider was not empowered to take the decision. By the time he was able to figure out that the salad needs to be replaced, 25 minutes had passed by and the customer had lost the patience. However, there were no apologies made by the retailer which is again because of the lack of the redress guidelines or lack of training for the same!

While SOPs are important to minimize the gaps in the service delivery, Redress mechanisms are essential to get things right in case a gap arises in service delivery. Complaint and redress mechanisms require empowering the employees who serve the customers. This enables them to take instant decision as and when the need be.

So while developing or reviewing the SOPs, it is important for retailers to ensure that complaint and redress mechanisms are not only weaved in the SOPs but also provide sufficient empowerment to service providers.