If you're selling a service that very large numbers of customers rely on, with challenging circumstances often beyond your control affecting your ability to deliver, you can unfortunately expect a high volume of complaints.
Add to this the ability of social media to put those complaints in front of a wide audience before you even have a chance to reply to them. You now have a combination that can regularly bruise your company's reputation.
The requirement came from a national provider of public transport, with depots across the country. It is committed to its staff, routinely promoting from within, and many people working for it have been with the company for decades. Its ability to deliver its service is often affected by factors outside its control.
Staff replying to customer complaints did so with enthusiasm and feeling. But with so many different locations, the nature of responses varied widely, with no consistent tone to support the company's image.
The company also felt that staff could improve the way they structured responses, and better judge the amount and nature of information they gave to members of the public.
One depot took the initiative, contacting us in January for a bespoke version of our standard course, Responding to Complaints. The customisation they requested was in the form of exercises to supplement our generic ones. These were actual customer complaints and the replies originally sent out. We created sample improved replies to these and incorporated them into the workbook to be used for the course. Initially, these were for complaints received by phone, email and letter.
We presented the course to three groups over the next three months. It was sufficiently well received that the client's head office heard of it and contacted us to look into rolling it out across the country.
We held discussions with the company's social media team, to incorporate their guidelines on dealing with complaints made on social media, as this was becoming the more prevalent type of interaction their customers chose. We had recently incorporated a module on social media into our standard course, and we adapted this to include examples and suggestions from the client's social media experts.
With a revised presentation and workbook which now even better matched the client's needs, we presented sessions all over the country over a period of a year. We gave a final couple of courses to new joiners a few months later.
In all, four Plain Words trainers presented 40 courses to approximately 400 staff in 25 locations.