Zero Customer Complaints

When Zero Defects are the Norm, Why Not Zero Customer Complaints?

By Gautam Mahajan

There was a time that the term ‘zero defects’ did not exist. It was accepted that some defects would always remain. But management Gurus convinced companies that zero defects were possible and also would create competitive advantage.

Today, it is understood that customer service is necessary, and good customer service creates competitive advantage. Unfortunately, customer service efficiency is measured by customer satisfaction that study transactions and not embedded feelings over a period of time, assessed by customer value. Another metrics is complaints per thousand interactions. Many companies are happy to have 10 or less complaints per thousand, or 1%. Some company’s achieve 0.1% complaints. And they rest on their laurels.

The effort is made on managing complaints and not on eliminating them. I just talked to a major financial services company and they cannot understand zero complaints are essential to customer and corporate well being and will reduce the number of employees fielding complaints.

Whenever a complaint gets escalated upwards to management, the general thought is to solve the complaint (and not always to the customer’s satisfaction). No one thinks about systemic means to change processes and set procedures.

Much of this happens, because the job of the managers is to solve the problem. They do not, or are not asked to reach zero customer complaints. If they were to look at the problem from this view point, not only would the problem be solved, but also in future the complaint or customer problem should not happen.

There are generally two reasons for people to call a company; they either do not understand something or they have an issue (or a complaint) needing a solution. Better information and better systems to avoid complaints happening in the first place are necessary.

Let me give you an example from one of the most admired and among the largest Indian companies.

I just bought overseas travel insurance on the net. Unfortunately, I had to extend the length of stay and consequently the number of days of insurance. The insurance was due to start a month from this time. I got on the phone, and found one number did not exist. The other one was difficult to get and when I would get on, and was made to answer many questions and listen to many unnecessary “ads”, I would be put on hold for the next available agent. And then I would get disconnected. I had to go through a few iterations before I got to talk to an agent. No, the policy could not be extended (he did not know how). The best would be for me to cancel the policy and get a new one for a longer time period. So I requested cancellation. The agent could not tell me when I would get my refund. Almost 20 days later, I managed (through influence) to get the number of a senior executive. He was very apologetic. A few days later, I still did not have refund. So I sent an email again. This time an executive working for the company called me because his boss had asked him to help me get a refund. I had to fill a form for a refund. I told him I had not filled any form for getting the policy, and why now, and why the call centre had not told me about the form. To cut a long story short, he said he would arrange for a refund. The executives would never go back and get the problems corrected using software, processes and procedures so that others would not have a problem, which would lead to zero customer complaints.

I urge companies to embrace the concept of zero customer complaints and work on reducing problems for customers. What a different customer experience zero customer complaints would be!


 Gautam Mahajan

President – Customer Value Foundation

Gautam Mahajan is President of Customer Value Foundation and the author of Total Customer Value Management, and Customer Value Investment                                         

Contact Customer Value Foundation for help


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5 Comments on “Zero Customer Complaints”

  1. A hearty Amen to your thought dear Mahajan

    Mr KV Simon
    Regional VP
    American Hotel & Lodging Educational Institute

  2. Thank you for your thought provoking article. Reminded me frankly of my experience of several years back in a Top notch Corporate where the Chairman personally chaired every week a ‘Thursday Meeting’ with a single point agenda….Customer Feedback. The aim was to respond expeditiously to the voice of the customer & the aim was reach ‘Zero Defect’ on Customer complaints! Leadership on such issues needs to come from the very top!

    Mr. VS Krishnan
    Chairman & Managing Partner
    VSK Strategies (Management Consultants)

  3. Thanks a lot for wounder full article.

    Mr Jagdeep Sablok
    Sr. Vice President-Operations
    Metro Tyres Ltd.

  4. Amit Arora Says:

    Thanks for the article. This article certainly will make think to create processes which can lead to zero complaints rather than fewer complaints

  5. […] Amazon has an amazing name for great service and being customeric. So much so that Shep Hyken lauded them. And I have been an admirer, till recently. They had many slipups in Amazon India, and there is a lesson to be learnt from these slipups. Hope Amazon and others will take heed and move closer to zero complaints. […]

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