What outcomes do consumers want from a complaint?

Ombudsman Services | Aug 21, 2019

When something goes wrong with a product or service, it can be a stressful and frustrating time for consumers. Added to feelings of frustration are the expectations people have when they complain, with 81% believing it shouldn’t be hard to get a product or service right first time.

I just want the problem fixed

Research commissioned by Ombudsman Services in 2019* shows that the minimum most people (67%) expect when they raise a complaint is to be put back to the position they were in before the issue occurred. This was found to be particularly true of older consumers, with 78% of 55 - 64 year olds and 83% of those aged 65+ stating this as a minimum expectation.

An apology is all I ask

Despite having high expectations when it comes to the provision of products and services, roughly half of those surveyed (48%) said they simply want an apology when things go wrong. The principle of the matter is clearly important to consumers and businesses must acknowledge when they’ve made a mistake in order to rebuild trust.

this one

Money matters

While an apology can go a long way, 29% of consumers stated financial reparation as a minimum expectation following a complaint. This shows that almost a third are concerned with financial loss as a result of an issue with a product or service.

Consumer detriment is high when issues are not resolved at the first point of contact. Therefore, time taken to resolve a complaint is likely to add to customer distress and lead to feelings of mistrust in the complaints process. Over and above expecting to receive reimbursement for money lost, time is money and over a third of consumers (39%) report expecting to come out financially ahead after complaining.

Furthermore, Implicit Attitude Testing (IAT) used in our research this year shows that consumers who report not being interested in financial gain (61%) demonstrate low emotional commitment to this, with an Emotional Resonance Score (ERS) of 15 out of 100**. This suggests that the time and trouble of having to raise a complaint with a provider is deemed to merit a financial award.

CAM 2019 Outcomes Financial Gain

Implications for consumers and businesses

The risk for consumers if they’re not open with providers about what they want from a complaint, is that they come away feeling short-changed when their expectations aren’t met.

For businesses, the risk is potentially even higher; if they don’t truly know how consumers feel, they’re unable to address what their customers really want and may miss opportunities to improve more generally and retain custom.

To encourage open communication in the complaints process, beginning by asking customers about their outcome expectations can help businesses address what matters most. In turn, this should help businesses maintain trust and, ultimately, customers.

Where Ombudsman Services can help businesses

If you’re an energy or communications provider, we can help you build sound and effective complaint-handling processes and policies. Our data and insights will enable you to improve your complaint handling and customer service more generally. Want to know more? Email Applications@Ombudsman-Services.org and we’ll be in touch.

*All research referred to in this blog relates to Consumer Action Monitor research commissioned by Ombudsman Services and carried out by Deltapoll between 4 - 8 March 2019. The survey was nationally representative and involved 4,000 interviews of adults aged 16+ from across Great Britain. The Consumer Action Monitor is published annually and is now in its sixth year. Click here to read the full 2019 report.

**Implicit Attitude Testing (IAT) works by calculating an Emotional Resonance Score (ERS) against any response. This score combines the proportion of people who think in a certain way, with the extent to which they’re emotionally committed to their view. This is measured via speed of response to questions; neuroscience tells us that the faster people answer a question, the more belief or emotional certainty they tend to have in the answer they’ve given. The ERS scale is from 0 – 100; the higher the ERS, the more emotional certainty consumers have in their response.