Supply Chain Blog

FMCG Customer Service & Complaints: Why do you plan for failure?

Posted by Dave Jordan on Wed, Aug 28, 2013

Do you remember those long running TV advertising campaigns for probably/possibly the best lager/beer in the world? The specific advert from the UK that sticks in my mind is the one where Mr. Middle Manager is leaving the office for the evening when he hears a telephone ringing.

Drinks FMCG Customer Service resized 600He is not sure which room it is coming from but then realises the source is an office marked as “Complaints Department” or something similar. Walking forward Mr. Middle Manager opens he door and enters an office that looks like it hasn’t been occupied for many years. (Anyway, how on earth did this available office space not get gobbled up in any number of corporate office relocations and redesigns?) On lifting up the telephone - yes a real old one with a curly cable - he discovers that the caller has the wrong number.

The subtle tongue in cheek message being that this particular brand of beer is so good and quality so consistently high that a “Complaints Department” is simply not relevant. If you think about it anyone with an unequivocally named Complaints Department probably expects to receive calls and letters from dissatisfied consumers and customers whether they are quality, service or performance based.

A clear double whammy! You pay people to who unfortunately make the mistakes and then pay another group to deal with the fall-out! I know life is not perfect nor are human beings or any process so the concept of the beer advert is an impossible to reach utopia. Similarly, you cannot keep everyone happy all of the time and some people and organisations believe complaining is a part of the producer-client game.

Nevertheless, recently I studied the regional Customer Service organisation of an FMCG blue-chip company. The brief was to ensure resources were aligned with the relative sizes and importance of the clients in the Key Accounts (KA) and Traditional Trade (TT) sectors. Changes to the split between KA and TT meant some people were twiddling their thumbs while others were clearly stressed.

While looking at possibilities it became clear that this company was spending more on complaints handling than on real Customer Service and cash collection. A whopping 38% more to be precise! A significant proportion of the non-sales force customer facing resources were employed to deal with problems. Talk about planning for failure!

Do you have a Complaints Department or perhaps it is hidden under the Customer Service umbrella? Take a look at how much you are spending in maintaining a team of people plus infrastructure to receive and deal with communications from unhappy callers and writers. Or let me present this another way, how much are you spending to correct the mistakes you are making at some stage of getting finished goods to consumers and customers?

Be careful or the next call to your office might be to discuss another role or even gardening leave!

Image courtesy of digitalart at freedigitalphotos.netfreedigitalphotos.net

Tagss: Customer service, FMCG, Dave Jordan, CEO, Performance Improvement, Cost Reduction