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The question of placement

The concept of effective customer service is often paid much lip service, but aligning reality with intent is seldom a realised goal. In an ideal world, organisations would realise the cyclic nature of customer service and embrace its many stages, with complaint management being a critical component.

Complaint management represents an opportunity to bring disaffected customers back into the fold while reaffirming the loyalty of reliable, yet disappointed, customers. It is, in some ways, the lynchpin of customer service as a whole — without complaint management, customer churn would continue unabated… a slow leak that drains both credibility and profitability.

While not all organisations have realised the importance of complaint management, those that have are bypassing their peers by addressing ways to more effectively engage with their customers. When designing and implementing a complaint management infrastructure, a key question to be addressed early-on is placement.

  • Will your complaint management efforts be centralised or localised?
  • Do you need to maintain a physical presence in certain key locations?
  • If so, what are the considerations? Benefits? Which one is the right choice?

In today’s blog article we’ll explore these topics as we consider the benefits of centralisation vs localised resolution of customer-originated complaints.

Benefits of centralisation

For small to mid-sized companies, where budgetary considerations play a major role in all decisions, centralised complaint management is usually the default approach. As the company grows and customer service expansion becomes an option, a genuine analysis of the placement of your complaint management resources needs to be made.

A centralised approach to complaint management means that all incoming queries, complaints and service requests are directed to a singular location/team. From a pure logistics & cost standpoint, centralisation is almost always simpler and, frequently, more cost-effective than maintaining localised resources.

When supported by a comprehensive complaint management software solution, a centralised methodology offers a number of benefits, such as:

  • Unified Collaboration: Sharing content, escalating issues and internal communication is facilitated by the close proximity of complaint team members. Distance and misaligned working hours are not issues, as teams have the freedom to easily confer with colleagues and seek approvals in-house;
  • Simplicity: Directing all incoming complaints to one complaint resolution centre simplifies the internal management and analysis of resolution processes. From an administrative point-of-view, there is no need to track down complaint tickets from other time-zones and gathering data for internal performance reporting & analysis becomes considerably easier; and
  • Cost Benefits: Compared to opening office locations regionally or globally, maintaining a centralised complaint management unit is typically more cost-effective. Ultimately, however, every situation is unique — establishing a complaint management presence in a low labour-cost country, for example, could offer cost benefits on the same scale as expanded centralisation.

However, other factors—such as training and expected service levels—need to be taken into account in order to arrive at an accurate cost & benefit analysis.

Benefits of localisation

For certain industries, establishing a localised complaint management presence is not a luxury — it has to be done for regulatory reasons. Organisations in the supply chain logistics, financial services and healthcare industries may all be required to make special provisions for addressing customer complaints at the local level. This is often due to geo-specific circumstances; for example, logistics firms may need a presence in the country they are exporting to while healthcare institutions may require patient rights experts at the state/regional level.

Other industries may not be subject to such constraints, but may be compelled to provision localised complaint resolution teams for other reasons:

  • Global Sellers: Generally-speaking, manufacturers, retailers and brands all require a complaint management presence in the country where they are selling their products. This is particularly true for brick-and-mortar companies whose overseas physical presence is subject to their host country’s fair practice and consumer rights laws; and
  • Travel & Transportation: Organisations in this highly competitive sector, whether domestic or internationally oriented, rely heavily on their capability to provide superior customer service. Airlines, travel agencies and hotels are seldom constricted to a single location — larger companies in these sectors are responsible for providing service to millions of customers on a global scale. In order to better serve such a diverse customer base, companies in the travel and transportation industries depend on distributed complaint resolution teams to address a wide range of multi-lingual, cultural and location-specific issues.

Whether discretionary or not, establishing a localised complaint management presence does offer a number of unique benefits, such as:

  • Increased Customer Engagement: Localisation gives companies the opportunity to provide meaningful & relevant complaint resolution experiences for their customers. Seizing that opportunity makes a real-world difference when the customer interacts with your complaint team — whether it’s language, knowledge of local landmarks or a cultural connection, the benefits of both parties being “on the same page” from step one is incalculable; and
  • Credibility: Establishing a localised presence confers instant credibility to your organisation for customers within the service region. In short, you care enough about their needs to make an investment in their customer service experience. Customer loyalty and preferences can be difficult metrics to measure, but localising the complaint resolution experience has a profound impact on customer retention.

The answer? It depends

There is a wide variety of determining factors when considering the question of centralisation vs localisation. For companies subject to regulatory or budget constraints, there is no real debate — the choice is predetermined. Other organisations, however, must carefully weigh the benefits of both approaches.

The reality, however, is that there is no concrete answer to the question — much depends on your company’s business requirements, customer base and product/service offered. Like many things in life, there is no “one-size-fits-all.”

The true challenge, however, is the realisation that complaint management is not a dead-end nor is it a neglected “off-ramp” on the motorway of customer service. In short, it’s not meant to be a means to dismiss disgruntled customers.

On the contrary, complaint management is a vital stage in the holistic lifecycle of customer relations. It is a process that enables organisations to correct internal mistakes and redress customer grievances in an engaging—and hopefully successful—way.

At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter whether a complaint is solved by a dedicated complaint team at your headquarters or by a Spanish-speaking resolution expert at your Madrid customer service office.

The point, and we think you’d agree, is that the complaint is solved to the satisfaction of both parties.

The ideal solution: Facilitating your success

When implementing a complaint management infrastructure, there are multiple benefits and drawbacks to consider. In addition to centralisation or localisation, many companies opt for a hybrid approach, where activities such as reporting, complaint handling and cause analysis are divided between centralised and local resources based on business need.

No matter which framework you pursue, the core structure of your complaint management system should be supported by a software solution with the following features:

  • Unified Approach: Handling of customer complaints should be organised in a way that enables response teams to effectively address customer concerns. No matter where your company is located, your software solution should be capable of centralising all incoming complaint requests and presenting details using a unified and collaborative approach.
  • Security and Compliance: Complaint resolution frameworks are often designed for different purposes, such as improving customer service or identifying process issues. For many industries, however, regulatory frameworks are the driving force behind complaint management systems. In these environments, air-tight security and mechanisms for handling compliant-sensitive issues is required. Your ideal solution should offer out-of-the-box support designed to ease your compliance burden in terms of reporting, complaint timescales, escalation stages and dispute resolution workflows.
  • Simple, Repeatable and Consistent: Managing incoming complaints & feedback should not be a laborious chore — on the contrary, it should be an experience that is intuitive, user-friendly and engaging. A best-of-breed complaint management system should be focused on the demands of those using it on a day-to-day basis. This means accessible functionality that automates repeated processes and workflows that smoothly transition between stages. No matter how complex a case is, the end result should be consistent in both creation and presentation.
With over 25 years of industry experience, iCasework is uniquely positioned to empower your organisation to effectively implement a comprehensive complaint management system. Our flagship product, UsefulFeedback.com, has enabled dozens of clients to align customised complaint management features with specific business requirements.
Interested in how UsefulFeedback.com can help your organisation reach its service goals while driving customer engagement across your enterprise? Give us a call at +44 (0) 207-624-4991 or visit us online at UsefulFeedback.com to book a demo.

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