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Research explores why companies seldom seem to learn

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Research explores why companies seldom seem to learn

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A fundamental part of being a sense and respond organization is the ability to react and change in accordance to the feedback you’re receiving from the marketplace.

It’s something that challenges a great many organizations, who lack both the willingness to receive (contrary) opinion, and also the agility to do anything with that knowledge.

A recent study highlights just how challenging this is, and how seldom do the complaints of customers ever materialize into any tangible change.

“Three out of four complaints to service employees don’t even reach the line manager,” the authors say.

The paper reveals that whilst most organizations have policies to handle complaints, the reality is that many employees fail to adhere to them unless the complaints are made much more formally.

“This happens at the expense of the service company,” the researchers say, “as the customers hint at the weaknesses of the company with their complaints and thus give important feedback regarding potential improvements”.

The researchers studied the way workload, job resources and culture within organizations to see how they each meshed together to create bottlenecks in the complaints procedure.

The results revealed that things that are traditionally seen as hurdles to the smooth flow of information, are really not as much of a factor as previously thought.

“Contrary to the general assumption that job specific resources, like the support of the line manager, encourage the realization of company goals whereas workload impairs it, our results show that this is not necessarily the case when it comes to forwarding complaints,” they say.

Interestingly, empowering employees was shown to be something of a double edged sword.  Whilst on one hand they could deal with customer complaints rapidly, which made the customer happy.

On the other hand however, these complains also need to be logged to ensure the business learns from the mistakes made.

What’s more, it emerged that the culture of the organization, and indeed even the nationality of employees.  For instance, in western cultures, there was found to be a greater sensitivity to various aspects of workplace life.

So if customers are unfriendly or the boss isn’t supportive, this was much more important than in more collectivist cultures.

However, it emerged that the propensity to pass on the complaints of customers was not culturally specific, especially when employees worked for organizations that were customer orientated.

The paper concludes by suggesting that organizations reinforce the importance of passing on customer complaints to ensure that as much learning as possible takes place.  Indeed, there could even be incentives offered to ensure this occurs.

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