Friday, 30 July 2010

Client complaints – do you have a strategy?

Well we'd all love to say we never get any complaints but...

So, the way they are handled can make all the difference to the perception of your company. In general business practice they are even going as far as to say that complaints should be handled like gifts - they give you the opportunity to make things better.

Are we as an industry doing that? We were pretty shocked to find Brian's catalogue of complaints against web design companies. Some of his tips of what not to do go against some of the tips we suggest you do in project management. But you can see why he reached his decisions with the situations he came up against. It seems that the old adage of Give a dog a bad name is right in this case and unfortunately, it will stick to the profession.

The no hourly rates tip becomes a big issue for us if the client just runs away with changes all the time even when the site is technically finished. Not paying upfront for a job is another thing we have found is an issue when a developer carries out loads of work prior to getting paid and the client just walks away from the job and goes elsewhere. We don’t say get paid for everything upfront, but we do recommend splitting the work into paid phases that you all agree on (assuming it's a long-enough task).

The not believing him part is sad. There needs to be trust between client and developer that is built up mutually. Once a client thinks they have had a bad experience with a developer, it can make any other web design relationship problematic. This can cut both ways, with the risk of a poor experience degenerating into a client from hell for the developer.

And if you're sitting there feeling virtuous because you don't get complaints, perhaps the reasons given by people for not complaining might niggle - 52.2% of 26 thousand respondents didn't think it would make a difference! See The Institute of Customer Service survey .

So what should we do? It is good business practice to have a complaints procedure that is transparent for your clients. Do you have one? Does it say how the complaint will be dealt with, how long the response will take and who will deal with it? These are key factors in a complaint handling strategy. What's more the company can learn from complaints and improve processes so that complaints get few and far between. There's a transparent procedure at wnw design company stated on their site.

Just think complaint resolution as well as conflict resolution - although I admit we address conflict resolution more than we have complaint resolution. Maybe time for a change!