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.
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.
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.