|By Dr. Sharon Gotteiner
Client complaints can be annoying to handle. But they also help us adapt to client expectations, and strengthen our competitive advantage. Can you help the company adapt?
Do you know what company clients have been mainly complaining about over the past 12 months? If not, ask to be provided with such information. Client complaints can affect the entire organization and staff, and you may be able to help. If you have such information, please consider:
Are there any policies, procedures, decisions or resources in your field of responsibility, that still need to be changed to prevent future incidents?
This challenge suggests that client complaints are great. That’s right: they provide invaluable opportunities to address several cornerstones of change management, namely customer orientation, upper echelon, and learning organization perspectives. Let’s see how these three connect and form an opportunity you cannot afford to be missing.
Customer orientation needs no explanation. Or does it? It turns out that refocusing the company on the needs and expectations of the customer can often make a successful turnaround (Day & Moorman, 2013). Organizations are prone to an inside‐out view, and the forces driving them there must be balanced with strong, counter, outside-in ones. Accommodating and timely responses to customer complaints can provide just that. Any given customer complaint can be viewed as a wake-up call to aligning with customer needs and expectations. Take advantage of it!
The upper-echelon perspective is the notion in organizational behavior that relates to top managers’ power to shape the organization (Hambrick& Mason, 1984). For good or bad, they shape the organization by clarifying their positions on various business perspectives, be it perceptions, expectations, behaviors, policies, or courses of action. Lower echelons adopt such perspectives, even when they consider such perspectives to be wrong and harmful: they understand that “it is my way or the highway”. In a corporate governance jargon, that’s the “tone at the top” that can either strengthen or weaken the organization. The upper echelon is also mentioned as one of the sources of organizational decline: top managers have been holding unsuitable business beliefs and led the rest of the echelons to the valley of death.
Unlike lower echelons, customers are not prone to adopting the messages or policies percolating from above. They will tell you how disappointing you are to your face, and they are not fearful of you firing them. In fact, you should be fearing of them firing you, as their supplier. But why go there? Make the best out of the information they provide you with; it’s the kind of input you may not hear from your reports. It’s true, they may not be right, but give their input decent attention.
A learning-organization perspective relates to your effort of avoiding similar complaints from recurring. That includes the identification of certain policies or procedures that need to change, or product documentation, or quality, or any other way of effectively addressing non-isolated issues. When it comes to unsuitable attitudes or perceptions, learning may also refer to unlearning (Nystrom & Starbuck, 2004).
So… are there any policies, procedures, or resources that we can change, to better meet the expectations of our customers?
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