Support Operations

John Custy
Is Zero Complaints a Good Goal?
Written by John Custy Apr 25, 2011

Recently, while conducting an assessment for a Fortune 100 company, the senior executive proudly told me that he had set a goal of zero complaints, and that the organization was well on its way to achieving that goal. In fact, the volume of complaints had already dropped to almost nothing. I looked asked him why he set that specific goal and received a puzzled look in return.

“We don’t want complaints,” he said. “We want high customer satisfaction.” I proceeded to tell him that if his goal was “no complaints,” I was sure he would achieve his goal, but I wasn’t sure that was what he really wanted. I told him that since the team knew his goal was “no complaints,” they would do whatever they could to achieve this, and I feared that valuable customer feedback would be lost.

So what happened? Once the word was out that the goal was no complaints, the organization did everything it could to eliminate complaints, or at least eliminate “formal” complaints. In doing this, it was also eliminating a lot of feedback on areas for improvement. I suggested he modify his goal to, for example, no complaints for unprofessional conduct, no complaints due to a lack of knowledgeable analysts, no complaints for lack of status updates, etc. These are more realistic goals and are a better path toward achieving his objectives.

You want your customers to provide feedback to you—what they like, what they don’t like, and what they think you should improve—all of it. Personally, I felt that this organization’s goal should have been to increase the amount of feedback; get more input from customers to identify improvement opportunities, not just what they didn’t like. Additionally, if some of your customers’ complaints have to do with the level of service the business is willing to fund, isn’t it prudent to hear what the customers and users are saying? Isn’t this valuable information to take back to the business?

In the end, the goals were modified to increase (encourage) the amount of feedback and decrease specific types of complaints through corrective action plans.

What do you think? Is zero complaints a good goal?

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