Easing the burden of consumer complaints

ONYEKORMAKA ASABOR writes that the just-concluded Customer Care Week provided companies the opportunity to address piling consumer complaints

When the Executive Vice Chairman of the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission, Babatunde Irukera, last February, said the commission was handling so many complaints and equally considering expanding the capacity of its complaints resolution team, it was very obvious to many observers and analysts in the consumer sector that the commission was overwhelmed with complaints.

Irukera had said, “Our complaints resolution team is still a very small group of people dealing with thousands of complaints.”

He explained that, in 2020, the commission received the highest consumer-related complaints from the electricity, banking and telecommunications sectors, followed by aviation.

His words, “We are looking at expanding capacity to have more hands handling the complaints, but the real game-changer in handling complaints better and faster is for companies to start doing it.

“The person with the least open complaint in our resolution team has about 800 complaints across sectors. If you multiply 800 or more by 12 to 15 persons, you will imagine the number of complaints.”

Noting inadequate resources as biggest challenge, the FCCPC boss noted that the commission would continue to be prudent with available resources.

“Being able to expand to a point where we are able to operate more efficiently, we will keep training and leveraging technology. The more we leverage technology, the more efficient we become,” he added.

With the foregoing, it is clear that the challenge is not something that will go away soon, as the complaint process at FCCPC is not as simple as many might have been thinking.  For the sake of clarity, it suffices to say that the FCCPC, by its mandate, receives and looks into consumer complaints to ensure speedy redress.

Any person, who uses products or services, expects to get value for money. When this expectation is not met, complaints arise.


Complaints process at FCCPC

For the commission to address a complaint, the aggrieved consumer must have initially engaged the provider of the product or service. If not satisfied, they can file a complaint with the commission. This may either be in hard copy and delivered to any of the FCCPC offices across the country or soft copy through the commission’s Internet portal.

The complainant must clearly state the name and address of the party complained against, the amount involved and the expected redress. Not only that, proof of transaction and any other document to support such claim are also expected to be attached, as all the information will help the commission with the process of redress, if a valid complaint is established.

As gathered from FCCPC, if the complaint was received electronically, the complainant should expect immediate acknowledgement. If the complaint was received in hard copy, an acknowledgment should be expected within two working days.

According to the commission, a complaint can be resolved immediately or may take some time, depending on its nature. Complaints require a response from the provider of product or service, which the commission will request. Some require the intervention of other stakeholders such as sector regulators.

While the commission is committed to providing speedy redress to valid complaints, the provision of accurate information and documentation makes this easier and reduces the timelines. It takes up to 45 days to get redress. However, some exceptions may exist beyond this time-frame.


Task before companies

Just as Irukera has disclosed the commission’s plan to engage more hands, and that the real game-changer is for companies to start doing it, it is unarguably customer-centric companies that can, to a large extent, ameliorate the mounting issue of consumer complaints.

Corroborating this, Jones Okwuosa, a consumer enthusiast, said, “There is need for companies to be customer-centric, as it is only by doing so that the burden of consumer complaints, particularly on the shoulder of FCCPC, can be lessened.”

He added that the yearly CSW should be exploited to the fullest, not perfunctorily marked, making it a pedestal of imbuing workers with the right attitude to deal with customer complaints.


Customer Service Week

Former customer service employee of a telecommunication firm and Chef (sic) Executive of Ibom Soups, Mrs Itoro Effiong-Bright, noted at thata forum in Lagos State that the customer is one who has choices but decided to patronise a particular product or service provider. This expression puts the royal garb on the customer.

The CSW is an international celebration of the importance of customer service.

In 1992, the United States Congress proclaimed the CSW a nationally recognised event, celebrated yearly during the first full week in October.

Since 1991, the Customer Service Group has been sponsoring the official CSW programme. The group provides how-to information; celebration materials imprinted with the official CSW logo, as well as inspiration from the hundreds of service and support professionals who share their success stories, plans and ideas.

Okwuosa explained that CSW is a highlighter of the importance of customer service, noting that if the essence of the celebration was imbued in them, it would, in turn, improve customer service and lessen customer complaints.

According to a customer relations employee, Raphael Eke, as companies celebrate CSW, there is need for deployment of new technology.

He said, “Improving softwares in call centres can help companies create better experiences for both agents and customers. The easier it is for customer service agents to do their job, the better they can handle customers. For example, implementing a call-back solution can help smoothen call volume when faced with a spike in calls causing longer than normal hold-times.

“Companies can open up new channels of communication. If a business is not already using social media to communicate, there is no better time to start than now. The modern customer expects to be able to communicate with you innup to 10 different channels. If they can’t, they may get frustrated.”

However, he urged those already using social media to communicate with their customers to explore new ways of interacting with them, such as using Twitter polls to get their feedback periodically.


Last line

This year’s CSW has been celebrated, but for those who did not leverage the opportunity, it is not late to start something to please the customer, who happens to be the king and essence of any business.

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