Complaints Mediation: “I Want To Speak To The Mediator!”

Scott McIver Blog

Ask managers of any business and they will tell you that complaints handling is one of the hardest, most expensive, and time-consuming processes in their job.

Most of the time, a complaint will be resolved at an early stage. For example, a replacement, refund, or apology is given, or an understanding is reached at the first stage of communication.

However, some complaints are more difficult to resolve. The situation could be unusually complicated, or higher up individuals might need to be consulted. Ultimately, the claims might even be disputed by the service provider.

If it does become too prolonged, however, communication can begin to break down and the ill-feelings are bound to worsen. The complainant might feel that they haven’t been heard or understood, or they may want a better explanation as to why the situation has arisen. They might also feel that their issues have not been properly acknowledged, or they may want assurances that the same situation doesn’t happen again.

And, unfortunately, the resulting damage to the business could be huge. For example:

• A dissatisfied customer will tell 9-15 people about a poor experience with an organisation, with 13% saying they shared with more than 20 people1.
£11 billion of revenue is lost per year due to poor customer handling, either through customers taking their business elsewhere or telling others of their negative experience2.
£28 billion worth of productivity is lost due to UK employees having to deal with complaints. These are funds and time that, ideally, could be put to other tasks3.

In many ways, it looks like businesses are stuck between a rock and a hard place… but that’s where complaints mediation comes in.

Mediation is now becoming a popular method of complaints handling, especially in healthcare settings, local authorities, and private companies.

In fact, it has gained so much credibility that it has actually been inserted into legislation for some industries. NHS trusts and local authorities are now required to provide every informal measure they can before a complaint goes to an Ombudsman, including mediation.

During the mediation, an independent and impartial third party would facilitate a discussion between the parties, aimed at finding an agreement that works for everyone. Importantly, the mediator is not there to take sides or attribute blame.

In addition, by bringing them together, the parties can air and exchange their views in person, which can promote a shared understanding and eliminate any misunderstandings. It is unlikely that this would have happened before, due to the way that complaints are commonly dealt with nowadays. After all, most handling procedures happen in the form of emails, webchats, or telephone calls.

And, as usual with mediation, the entire process is completely confidential. Because of this, everyone can speak freely without fear of repercussions, whilst also ensuring that shared information is private and cannot be used elsewhere.

As such, it is easy to see why complaints mediation is attractive to both the company and the complainant.

But, when we look at it from the business’ point of view, what are the actual benefits?

High success rate – Mediation boasts a general success rate of roughly 86%, in terms of an agreement being reached4. By finding a resolution, both parties can move on with an agreement where neither of them feels like they have “lost”.
Cost-effective – Mediation can be significantly cheaper than costly legal procedures, if it goes that far. It can be an even more fruitful investment if the business decides to train their own mediators, cutting out future costs altogether.
Speed of resolution – Rather than prolonging the dispute, mediation can often resolve the issue within a full day. It can be even quicker if the business has internal mediators that can be available immediately, rather than waiting for an external mediator to become available.
Improves brand image – Whilst it works to repair damage already caused, having that additional layer in the complaints process can also leave a positive impression. Going the extra mile to resolve complaints shows customers that they are valued and are prepared to collaborate when necessary.

Here at UK Mediation, because of these advantages, we are seeing increasing numbers of organisations approach us to help with their complaints handling procedures.

This can be done in two ways: either through the use of an external mediator for one-off cases or by training up existing staff to handle complaints internally.

The latter is why we have developed unique versions of our ‘Understanding Mediation’ and ‘Practical Mediation Skills’ short courses, designed to equip your team with all of the necessary skills to handle complaints effectively.

We can also tailor our five-day accredited ‘Interpersonal Mediation Practitioner’s Certificate’ course to our clients’ exact needs, including the training of complaints mediation.

So, whether you’re looking for your employees to gain an understanding of mediation, or to have them on standby as accredited mediators, we can help you optimise your complaints procedure for the benefit of both the organisation and the customer.

Find out more about our in-house Complaints Mediation courses
Register for our upcoming Complaints Mediation webinar
See our range of other in-house tailored training courses
Train to become an accredited mediator with our Interpersonal Mediation Practitioner’s Certificate

120 Shocking Customer Service Facts and Stats (Infographic)“, Provide Support Blog, 2015
2UK firms losing £11 billion from poor customer service, says report“, Business Reporter, 2016
3Poor customer service costs £28 billion per year in lost productivity“, Business Matters, 2017
4UK: Mediation: Success Or Failure?“, Mondaq, 2017