Sympathy For The Complainant


My favourite Rolling Stones song tells the devils side of the story. Mick Jagger sings a first-person narrative, which describes how he’s seen it all through history.

This lyrical masterpiece opens with “Please allow me to introduce myself”, and Jagger gradually reveals his identity.

Toying with the listener to guess under which name he commits crimes, wars, and other horrors, he alludes to what we all know; that if you understand that the Devil exists within us all, you’ll have a much better chance of dealing with him.

It is quite a fitting metaphor for what some may see as a “devilish” character – the complaining customer, aka, the Complainant.

Put simply, the song displays empathy for all sorts of personalities! Doing so can chip away at ‘debiasing’ one’s thoughts and prevent the use of unhelpful social stereotypes.

Showing empathy involves stepping outside of one’s own experience and imagining others’ emotions, perceptions, and motivations. It’s a crucial element in managing disputes and complaints.

As a dispute resolution professional, I like the song because it actively employs ‘perspective taking, which is a fancy way to describe alternative viewpoints’ active consideration.

I’ve had some terrible complaints-management experiences with my Telecomm service provider. You get transferred around and put on hold forever in the hope that you’ll hang up. So much brain damage, and you can’t get angry with the call centre operator as they’re doing their job. [1]

In the end, you feel like you have no voice so you vote with your feet and change service providers. Experience shows that customers know their rights more than ever and are more than happy to ‘test’ the system at the first opportunity.

The jig is certainly up on the so-called “loyalty tax” that some of the most well-know and trusted companies in Australia apply against their longest-term customers.

Energy and insurance providers increasingly punish us for our loyalty by quietly upping premiums as time goes by. People are more prepared to switch to save money and avoid call centres.

The thing is, how can AFS firms not only find the time to “show empathy” but also deal with likely growth in expressions of dissatisfaction under RG 271?

Because power is usually in the hands of the time-poor, it is difficult for the holders of power to take the time to consider the perspectives of others and they need tools to prompt them.

This is how online platforms like ours can add value in the engagement as screen-to-screen communication is insensitive to power imbalances. We can assist weaker parties and allow stronger parties to save face.

Also, consumer expectations have changed. Living digitally in the always-on economy means that travel-based, in-person meetings and hearings no longer cut it for many people.

Many industries have moved towards a central portal for accessing their consumer base (for everything, from cars and real estate through to dating). The demand is for immediate, relevant and quality experiences.

As well as handling the pain points of the disputing parties during their customer journey, organisations that handle a large volume of disputes deal with a great many pain points of their own.

Guided Resolution’s focus has always been on how to best use technology to improve the process for everyday people.

We see technology as an opportunity to augment and streamline existing dispute resolution protocols rather than disrupt and replace. We don’t see ourselves as an “Uber” looking to usurp existing business.

We concluded that resolving disputes and complaints (early) required four key elements that we’ve modelled into a software solution:

  • Objective assessment to downplay emotion;
  • Identify and document points of contention;
  • Understand the other side’s position to avoid misinformation; and
  • Direct communication between the decision-makers.

Our online intervention uses problem-solving negotiation to help parties:

  • Inventory their needs and wants;
  • Classify and compare them; and
  • Search for actionable win-win solutions.

Our platform is a seamless clearinghouse for complaints management that provides visibility for customers, staff, management and ASIC; and you must have a system like this in place by October 5.

Whilst you may feel you have plenty of time up your sleeve, this date is looming. We’d love to be your technology partner to help navigate the new compliance obligations and we’re happy to give you a few months to test out the platform and see how it fits your needs, ‘on the house’.

[1] If I was running the joint I would make sure that all C-Suite executives had to man the complaints call centre for two days a month to gain some different perspectives.