Please welcome guest blogger Frank Brinkman. Frank Brinkman retired from IBM in May 2006 after 41.5 years. He was responsible for the worldwide complaint, critical situation, and pervasive issue processes for IBM software.  Frank was involved with the complaint process from October 1995.  He led teams of people in other divisions and geographies to ensure the process was efficient and successful.  I was one of Frank’s contacts as part of  my responsibilities as Business Unit Executive, Customer Satisfaction, IBM Software in the Americas.

Complaint Process:

IBM’s Customer Complaint process begins with the company committed to a common definition of a complaint: any dissatisfaction with a product,  service, or process.

The IBM Complaint Process required any employee who heard a client express dissatisfaction to open a complaint record in the Complaint System.  This software application was responsible for tracking all complaints, for assigning responsibility for resolution, then tracking, and reporting resolution.

Once a Complaint was opened, a Resolution Owner (RO) was established.  He/She worked directly with the client to understand the complaint within 24 hours of the opening of the complaint.   Once the Resolution Owner understood the Complaint and the criteria to resolve it, they routed a request for assistance to the sales or development organization that had the responsibility to satisfy the criteria. The Resolution Owner stayed with the customer throughout the entire resolution process.

The sales or development organization that received the request assigned a Resolution Team Leader (RTL) to lead the resolution effort.  The RTL was to represent the client as an advocate for their business needs.  They built a team of development and technical support employees that had the skills to resolve all issues.  The RTL working with the RO established a communication schedule for the client and resolution team to discuss actions taken and results.   These status meetings via telephone conference or in rare circumstance on-site visits occurred regularly until resolution was achieved.

Upon agreement by the client that the satisfaction requirements had been met, the complaint was closed.  The client was told that they would receive a survey to fill out concerning their satisfaction with the Complaint Process and resolution received.

Critical Situation Process

When a complaint affected the client’s business process and their revenue stream, a complaint was categorized as a Critical Situation.   This required additional skilled resources and executive management involvement to speed up resolution.

Pervasive Issue Process

When a Critical Situation impacted or had the potential to impact all clients the Critical Situation was upgraded to a Pervasive Issue.   This categorization required a Resolution Executive to manage the resolution.

Management Process

The Complaint Process executive and management leadership met regularly to review achievements, problems, enhancements, and measurements.   There was regular management reporting schedules for each organization and complaint type.  The measurements were carefully selected to promote client satisfaction and loyalty. The counter balances within the Complaint Process kept forward momentum to continual improvements.

IBM’s complaint and critical situation process was and continues to be a key factor in maintaining its high levels of customer satisfaction.


The following two tabs change content below.

Adele Berenstein

Adele Berenstein is an Experienced Customer Satisfaction Executive, recently retired from a Large Global IT Organization after a long productive management career including Sales, Marketing, Services, teaching and education center management and most recently, 19 years in customer satisfaction management. She turned around divisions with customer satisfaction problems, implemented measurable improvements and management systems, and implemented programs to prevent problems from ever affecting customers.

12 Responses to “How to Handle Complaints: The IBM Way”

  1. Tweets that mention How to Handle Complaints: The IBM Way | Customer Satisfaction and Reputation Management -- Says:

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Adele Berenstein. Adele Berenstein said: How to handle complaints: the IBM Way. Business to Business complaint and critical situation management. […]

  2. Randy Frush Says:

    I am an student and i am willing to write some part of this post to my university blog,can i do so.Also just require your permit just mail me if you are happy about it. i believe this post will be helpful for the info i am wanting to publish.

  3. Adele Says:

    Randy, feel free to use part of this post but please provide a reference to this blog post and a link to it in your posting. That is normal etiquette on the web.

  4. Thomas P Matesich Says:

    I have tried several times to find out a very simple question such as is Lotus notes capable of handling several email account thru one browser. Your website runs you comletely around in circles and never gives you and answer. If IBM is not intersted in working with customers who may need to liscense up to 100 workstations, please let me know as there are many other email clients. Very dissappointing from a reputable company.
    Mr. Tom Matesich
    MCSE, MCP+I, CNA , A+

  5. Adele Says:

    Thank you for your comment. I have retired from IBM now but I still have a contact in the complaint department and I will pass your comment to them with the request that they have someone get back to you. I cannot tell from your email or note what country you are from. I will pass this to someone in the complaint department at IBM in the US with your email. I hope that gets you the information that you need.

    Thanks for reaching out.


  6. 10 Most Read Posts from 2010 – Customer Satisfaction blog | Customer Satisfaction and Reputation Management Says:

    […] 1. How to Handle Complaints: The IBM Way […]

  7. Beatrice Dorsett Says:

    To Whom It Man Concern:

    I sure wished someone could and would help me with my computer as I have been messed around, over, up and down and back again by IBM tech support over this expensive hunk of junk that I bought called a W700. From the beginning and at almost every turn, the Lenovo Sales Team and IBM support have dropped the ball on every single issue that I have had and there have been numerous ones. It is plain and evident to me that I got a lemon in this computer. The biggest problem that is see is that I got stuck with a bad computer and no one is willing to step up to the plate and take ownership of the issues.

    One thing is for sure, I most likely will never buy another Lenovo (IBM) computer again so long as I live because of the rotten way that I have been treated as a customer.

    Beatrice L. Dorsett
    Lapwai, ID 83540

  8. Adele Says:

    Beatrice, I feel badly that you are having difficulty with your Lenovo W700. I no longer work for IBM but I did send your complaint to someone I know at Lenovo. I hope they will get in touch with you and try to help resolve your issue.

  9. Top Posts of 2011 | Customer Satisfaction and Reputation Management Says:

    […] How to Handle Complaints: The IBM Way […]

  10. Debbie Says:

    I’m an American living in GB. I bought a top of the line Lenovo ThinkPad last year. I have written to Scotland Customer Service
    Britain Customer Service
    North Carolina
    Ms. Rometty – NY
    I’ve never had the courtesy of a reply.

    Thank you

  11. Adele Says:

    Hi Debbie

    Thank you for your comment.

    I am no longer an employee of IBM as I retired but I can give you some advice.

    Thinkpads are no longer manufactured by IBM. They sold the PC business to Lenovo several years ago and Lenovo is a completely separate company. So you need to write to Lenovo or call their service department about your concerns.

    I hope this helps


  12. Devender Anand Says:

    Hi Adele,

    I was browsing through the internet for Complaint Handling procedures adopted by various companies and industries,and I had a read through your brilliant article.

    It is lucid, yet a comprehensive report which has a good insight to readers across.

    I have few queries basis the report, could you be kind enough to clarify about the following:

    – Th amount of Leverage given to the Resolution Owner (RO) in terms of interacting with the actual consumer and internally, is it constrained or is it need basis.

    (Generally it is observed that the people who initially contact the consumer have follow a restrained/extremely controlled set of procedure(s) which makes the whole resolution cumbersome and time consuming.)

    – Could the RO act a Consumer Advocate, if the need be, surpassing the appointment of the RTL.

    – How frequently did the Management meet to review achievements, problems, enhancements, and measurements.

    Devender Ravi Anand (Dev)

Leave a Reply

Hide me
Sign up below to receive a Free Report (Retail Value $150.00)
Name: Email:
Show me