Six Sigma and Customer Complaints

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    Recently certified and my first project is to do an analysis on Customer Complaints. Any suggestions on what I should focus on? Im in a call center environment and really need to “prove” the six sigma concept with this analysis.
    Are these items a good start:
    Trends by day of week
    By Reason
    Complaint by associate tenure
    Complaints by time of day
    Correlation to service level
    call volume
    I’m kind of stuck on what I should tackle.
    Direction is to do a deep dive into complaints.
    Any guidance would be appreciated.



    Greg, this looks like a good first cut to use to begin grouping the complaints. However, what you are really looking for is the “source” of the complaint – where is the defect that was the catalyst for the complaint? Once that data is gathered you will Pareto it to find the most impactful root cause for complaints. Your project will then be to eliminate or reduce the cause for the customer experience to have become a complaint in the first place.
    The data you are gathering with this effort is simply discovery – it is not a project yet. It becomes a project once you have identified the defect causing a complaint and apply DMAIC to the process driving that source.



    Good answer.



    Thanks O – I get close now & then.


    Rajesh Agarwal

    Hi Greg,
    Pareto of Pareto will surely help to dig down towards the root.
    According to me the segments that you have identified are good but one obvious is the areas of complaint seem to be missing. For example complaint could be on timely response or lack of knowledge of the asscoiate or voice quality or in a particular functional area. Then further drill down with help of 5WHY will get you there.



    I think you need to root cause from two aspects
    1. What is the original root cause – i.e. why did the customer have a problem in the first place? Why did they originally call?
    2. The second aspect should the trigger to the complaint, i.e. when they called why was their issue not resolved and they felt the need to complain.
    The key is to discover opportunity to eliminate the source problem, but where this is not possible you will have a second channel to reduce the reason their calls can turn in to eventual complaints.



    Hi, Greg. I`m from GE Money Brazil. I`m an attorney at law, responsible both for civil claims and ombudsman departament. I`ve had an interesting experience aplying lean six sigma metodology to our internal proceedings.
    We analyzed some of the following issues:
    1 – Waste Time spent on the complaints analysis by legal (1st step) and by CCRP (2nd step)
    2 – Correlation between time to analyze a claim and to conclude a case by settlement.
    3 – Complaints volume and analysis capacity.
    4 – Ideal SLA for each step, measured by a lean process
    5 – Standardization of proceedings and answers according to the frequent complaints.
    We`ve got a great improvement on our process, and it would be great to hear more about your project and share experience with you.
    Bruno Silveira



    I think the comments have been on target but wanted to add another piece. You mention that you need to “prove” six sigma. Think about tracking some metrics to show what you are doing well. It is often easier to “sell or prove” when you can show support for the original system. Use the – – here’s what we are doing well and here’s what we can improve approach, you don’t want to be caught in the – – he’s just telling us were wrong syndrome.
    Good luck


    Plato Nick

    This is a very broad one.  It’s like using Six Sigma to cure AIDS or stopping the end of the world.  However, Six Sigma can be used instead to provide a motivational program to allow agents to “happily” handle complaints.
    Complaints will always be there just as a devil in every churches.



    Thanks to all who provided me with feedback. All of it was excellent. I definitely will keep you posted on my progress!
    Thanks again!


    Ullman Garrett

    Customers want quick response and answers.  I’ve been told by customers “if it takes more than 30 days to get back to me, don’t bother, I forgot what the complaint was about”. So – don’t forget some metrics around time in the process – how long does it take to get root cause analysis done, how long does it take to get back to customer, what are the longest delays in your complaint resolution process, WHO is the slowest to respond, etc.


    Edward Connolly

    Other than what seems obvious, I have found that categorizing by the following categories gives you a lot of bang for the buck in terms of useable intelligence for the amount of time you spent analyzing:
    1. Severity level – define several severity levels from very serious (such as unfit for use, risk to user, high potentil for loss of furture business), all the way down to to nuisance. Establish how many cateergories as necessary for you organization, and then define each category. Spend your CA time starting with the highest level and working downward to “No CA for the lowest.
    2. Justified or unjustified. Ie. is the claim justified and is your organization responsible. Let’s face it. Customers put in claims for things that are just not justfied or out of your control (e.g error in customer controlled design). Factor these out of your analysis.
    3.) obviously you want to clearly identify the defect type. Once that is done the next most important thing (#2) is what I call the control activity. This is the operation that had control over whatever product characteristic that was nonconforming (defective feature). Break-down and grouping by control actvity will allow you to focus CA on the centers that produce the highest number of defects of all types, and may be in the worst control. Ie. a tool for leveraging effective CA. What works on place may work when applied to other operatons.
    4.) finally look at repeat defects and common fators or associations
    When you consider the above, together with your “standard” analytical brakdowns such as frequency/time, etc, you will have a good picture of where and how to apply corrective action (after suitable investigation of course).
    Hope this helps. Ed



    Also I think Inflow & Outflow of call volumes during the period that you are monitoring the complaints should be considered as there is a possibilty of high volumes & low capacity could also be one of your critical X’s.



    I suggest you still maintain visibility for the “unjustified”.
    After all, if your customer perceives something to be your fault, you still run the risks associated with dissatisifed customers (not just losing them, but the other 9 people they tell who are not even your customer yet).
    If this turns out to be one of the bigger areas, you’d better find out WHY the customer thinks it’s your fault … maybe you just need better communication to them (educate them?).
    Just my 5 cents.



    GregS, Good morning!
    I am a little concerned that you are using an analysis of customer complaints to ” … “prove the six sigma concept …”.
    If you a categorization of the customer complaints and dosome analysis on them, you are walking into the “data door” of Six Sigma.
    How about the other door, the “process” door? Are you looking at the customer complaint handling PROCESS?
    For instance, is there an established process for handling customer complaints at your call center, or not?  If so, how are they handled?  Have you flowchatered the process? How long does it take? Are there goals, and if so, is the complaint handling process meeting its goals? Is it effective in handling the specific complaint? And, bigger picture, are you doing anything to ensure that the specific type of complaint is less likely to occur in the future?
    If you only walk through the “data” door, you are missing (at least) half of Six Sigma.
    And, hopefully, you are not doing these “walks” alone.  Do you have a good, effective Sponsor/Champion supporting your effort?
    Best regards,


    Nitin Sharma



    Nitin Sharma

    I am in similar process and since it is very important metric from the client’s perspective, we track it rigoriously. In addition to the parameters mentioned by you , we also track –
    1 Complaint category
    2 From which area
    3 Agents wise, tenure and team wise.
    4 Date wise.
    5 Trends in each of the above.
    This helps us to give better isight and manage performance.
    Hope this helps



    Thanks to all! As I stated before, you’ve all defintiely given me great direction and if I can return the favor in the future, let me know!
    One last question. My customer believes there’s a correlation between what the price of a product is versus how when they buy. I’m stumped on how to prove/disprove this hypothesis. As there are five different pricing models. Do I do a correlation for each one over a period of time? If so, the second issue I see is the price doesn’t fluctuate within the five tiers much, their pretty constant. So how can I prove/disprove that tier 1 drives whether/when a customer buys the product versus tier 2?



    GregS,Perhaps you do not see the difference, but apparently your customer does (or thinks they do). Could other factors that vary between the 5 pricing tiers be perceived as costs to the customer?Another possibility could be price sensitivity. Perhaps very small price differences significantly affect your customer’s buying behavior. Or, perhaps the customer expects one price all the time, and shops harder for alternatives when they see any increase in price.Other than merely looking for “when” I would study “how much” they buy. Are they buying more under certain pricing tiers, or they just buying the same volume but at different times?Interesting project!Dean

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