Hire a Chief Problem Solver to Create Value all round

There is no concentrated effort to reduce complaints in companies. Complaints and customer problems are never put on a priority basis or a war footing. The customer effort is based on giving delight to customers by most companies. However, the bulk of the problems occur because there are small, niggling, mind-bugging problems and hassles customers face, see my book with Walter Viera, Customer Value Starvation.

The concentrated effort will also lead to zero complaints, and so this becomes a worthwhile effort. Most companies have the processes and thinking to reach zero defects, but they have not worked on this. This is a call for them to take one more step to customer relief and nirvana. After all, defects lead to complaints. Zero defects normally mean the products are free of defects. But this does not apply to service, web site information, call waiting, customer journey issues and other easily solvable problems. This is an easy and good way to increase customer value.

For example, my Epson printer every now and then states check ink level. When that happens, it overrides print and scan commands. I have to manually close this alert on the printer. The Epson serviceman shrugs his shoulder and says you have to live with it (meaning do not complain, one sure way not to get to zero complaints!)

Do executives and CEOs truly understand the problems customers are facing? Do they really care or look the other way as Epson does? Do they have a problem solver whose first job is to look for and identify problems and then solve them within the company and outside, to internal and external people and entities.
What are they doing about these? What should they be doing?

Do CEOs initiate sessions on looking for customer problems, possible solutions and how to correct and prevent in the future? I have never heard of such meetings, if they are held at all!
Problems are of two types, inside companies and outside.

Inside companies, problems that employees face in dealing with each other and outside world, e.g. not having answers, having wrong info, not being able to answer or take decisions or reach decision makers, not being able to return calls after promising, not being enabled to solve problem. Sometimes they may be empowered but not enabled (which means supposedly they have the power to solve customer problems but no means and tools to solve them)!

What does an employee do when he hears that the ombudsman does not answer the customer’s complaints, or the grievance cell does not work, for example?

I had this problem with Citibank when I was told to escalate the problem to the ombudsman…who never answered!

Outside companies: you think employees do not notice the problems customers face? Most do, because they talk to customers. Most of the time, they have no way of correcting them or escalating them.

The solution lies in hiring a problem solver. And for the employee to make him aware of the customer’s problem or defects in the company’s systems causing the problem.

Think of a Chief Problem Solver and Zero Complaints and you will be adding more value than all your competition put together!

A couple of examples that could be solved if there was a chief problem solver:

Tata Play: I wanted to renew my annual contract. However, there is no option to renew. The only option is to recharge and by an amount I would select. But what is the annual payment? Is there a discount for lump sum payment? So, I decided to get off the net and tried via WhatsApp. In middle of using WhatsApp, the information page was replaced by an ad of the cricket.

Finally had to call to get the amount Why is it so difficult? Took an hour to pay. Does Tata Play care?

Tata Play probably does not even know these problems exist and if they know, they aren’t bothered.

A Chief Problem solver would have been alerted, and even tried a mock exercise to pay and found the problems and possible solutions.

Some people say use data to find problems. This may or may not bring any problems out. To use data, one must know what data to look for e.g. data on wait time, data on repeat calls, data on long calls and why the calls lasted so long? Was it because the customer had to repeat himself, or the service person had no solution but to tell the customer have you tried this or that?

Data on calls promised to be returned and not returned, data on whether bosses are seeing problems, data on whether CXOs receive a customer complaint, or work on a call desk.

The Chief Problem Officer has to devise how to find problems, by talking to customers, by talking to people within the company and front-line people. He would initial Customer Centric Circles (see my article in the Journal of Creating Value, 3-1, 2017). And then he has to get solutions. He should not become a service centre or call centre but have them collect problems for him to solve in a generic fashion.


Gautam Mahajan, President, Customer Value Foundation

Founder Editor, Journal of Creating Value jcv.sagepub.com
New Delhi 110065 +91 98100 60368
Twitter @ValueCreationJ
Blogs: https://customervaluefoundation.wordpress.com/
Author of Value CreationTotal Customer Value ManagementCustomer Value InvestmentHow Creating Customer Value Makes you a Great ExecutiveThe Value ImperativeValue Dominant LogicCustomer Value Starvation can Kill
Join the Creating Value Alliance at creatingvalue.co

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