Customer complaints, appropriately captured and analyzed, can provide useful insight about process defects. Although complaints are not the preferred method of obtaining the Voice of the Customer (VOC), you should not miss the opportunity to learn from them. But to do this, proper reporting and segmentation of customer complaints is needed. This requires that good operational definitions be established. Oftentimes, this first step is where we fail to capture the granularity of information needed to provide future meaningful analysis. For example, once a complaint is received and recorded, obtaining more specific information for further analysis will be difficult if not impossible. Categorizing complaints about a product or service as “doesn’t work” or “too hard to use” won’t be much help in identifying the root cause of the problem.

Identifying a good list of complaint “cause codes” for your particular business will take some work but will be worth while in providing information that drives a solution that not only fixes this customer’s complaint but can be used to prevent other customers from experiencing the same type of problem. It is all too easy to put a band-aid on the customer’s boo-boo and walk away. After all – this solves the immediate customer’s problem. But without capturing detailed aspects about the customer complaint, even the best Six Sigma Black Belt will be hard pressed to help you understand the rest of the story.

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