Are Brands Really Turning Customer Complaints into Valuable Insights?


by Ambrish Bandalkul |

Customer complaints are supposed to be a great way to find out what your customers actually think of you. Yet why does it so often feel like businesses are tone deaf? Ahead of our Customer Experience conference, we spoke to Reshel Chan, senior customer service manager at iconic Singaporean travel agency Chan Brothers Travel to find out why process improvement can be very hard.

(For more discussions on customer experience, join our Customer Experience Conference 2015, 11-12 March.)

Marketing: Customer complaints are supposed to be a great source of customer intelligence. Why do so many businesses fail to take advantage of this to improve processes?

Chan: Instead of using the label complaint, we prefer to label it feedback or feedforward. The former helps the company retain its customers by providing service recovery whenever required while rectifying current issues. The latter helps us understand how we can wow our customers. When recorded systematically, feedback and feedforward can become a huge asset in improving business processes. The reason that customer complaint management systems are not more highly valued are:
1. Incorrect understanding of feedback/feedforward
2. An inability to see immediate positive impact on the bottom line
3. Staff complacency and lack of desire within an organisation to improve the customers’ experience

Marketing: What are the biggest challenges you face in handling customer complaints?

Chan: One of the biggest challenges we face is in maintaining Singaporeans’ high standards and managing expectations in foreign countries. We also face problems in service recovery post-tour. Sometimes customers choose to remain silent and allow their dissatisfaction to fester during the tour while expecting a tour refund instead of voicing their complaint early. 80% of such cases can be resolved easily if they were raised immediately to our tour managers.

Marketing: How do you ensure that the feedback from customer complaints is taken into account to improve your processes?

Chan: We interact with our customers through several touchpoints, at point of sale, through continual Facebook, email and phone dialogue, during pre-departure briefings and on tour 24/7 with our tour managers. We table all feedback formally for subsequent action and improvement via personalised notes on a customer’s account history, point of sale customer feedback forms, post tour customer feedback forms and post-tour tour manager feedback forms. In addition to immediate action where applicable, all feedback is then consolidated and reviewed again quarterly.

Marketing: What’s the most difficult part of drawing process improvement insight from customer complaints?

Chan: The most challenging part would be identifying the areas where elevated customer service standards brings significant enough utility to justify investment, yet keeping in mind business sustainability through maintaining profitable margins. For example, we may serve chilli sauce for Singaporean travellers on our tours to enhance the overall dining experience, but we may just stop short of delivering 6-star Michelin cuisine on a 4-star tour fare.

Along with representatives of brands such as Challenger, Lenovo and Kimberly-Clark, amongst many others, Chan will be speaking about customer experience management at Marketing magazine’s Customer Experience 2015 conference, happening 11 – 12 March.

To register, please click here or contact Carlo Reston at or call +65 6423 0329, +65 9727 0291

If you would like to learn more about sponsorship opportunities, contact Soren Beaulieu at or call +65 6423 0329

For speaker or agenda queries, please contact Ambrish Bandalkul at or call +65 6423 0329