How Do We Get to Root Causes of Customer Complaints?

By Stephen Groll Vice President, Office of the Inspector General

By Stephen Groll
Office of the Inspector General

The Exchange remains steadfastly committed to maintaining our relevancy to Warfighters and families in a competitive retail environment, while growing sales, earnings and dividends.

We’ve moved the needle to “great.”

The Exchange’s inspector general and a team from across the organization also want to move the needle toward “great” for identifying root causes of customer complaints.

The team includes managers and associates from Customer Relationship Management, Store Operations, Corporate Communication, Exchange Credit Program Call Center, Logistics Directorate and eCommerce/Customer Experience Directorate.

We’ve all been there:

An annoying pain in your head has become too much, so you visit the doctor.  He or she gives you medication to stop the pain. You experience some relief, but the doctor hasn’t fixed the problem, only treated the symptom.

Through this collaborative effort, our intention is to dig deep into customer-related headaches and not only stop the pain, but get to what is causing them.

Viewing Customer Complaints as Opportunities

During the past five years, top complaints from Exchange customers are:

  1. Associates and quality of customer service
  2. eCommerce, ranging from canceled orders to poor delivery service
  3. Prices
  4. Facility conditions
  5. Food service

Handling complaints quickly and fully is a great opportunity to enhance relationships with customers and build loyalty, too.

Customer Care Measurement and Consulting, a management research firm in of Alexandria, Va., discovered recently that only 4% of unsatisfied customers actually complain to the business about their experiences.

The other 96 percent take their business elsewhere, but each tells up to 10 people about the problems. This creates a pyramid effect, with up to 250 people learning about bad experiences via word of mouth or social media.

We certainly don’t want this happening with our customers, which is why we intend to fully and deliberately address and resolve issues that are causing shoppers to complain in the first place. In this case, customer complaints are our opportunities to reaffirm our commitment to them.

Desired end state

Clogging up our customer intake systems with the same complaints is wasteful and a source of great frustration for shoppers. Continuous process improvement will allow us to give shoppers the experience we know they want.

Continuous improvement means remaining committed to solving one problem and then moving on to the next and then the next one after that.

Collaboration is essential to this mission because we all have acute interests in a favorable outcome, regardless of who gets credit.

President Harry Truman once said, “It’s amazing how much you can get done if you don’t care who gets the credit.”

Stephen Groll is vice president of the Exchange’s Office of the Inspector General.

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  1. Linda Vannatter on July 18, 2019 at 5:24 pm

    I have a suggestion that may help alleviate some of the complaints regarding E-commerce and customer service complaints. If a weekly summary of complaints received was sent out much like lessons learned in a email communication (leave out associate or customer names because we are not here to call anyone out) to the department that impacted the complaint, it may prevent someone else from committing the same mistake that would generate a repeat complaint.

    Although the people involved or are at the root of the complaint may be contacted, the complaint is usually handled without even involving the root of the complaint. Providing a generic scenario of complaints being received may prevent someone from making the same mistake.

    Learn from other people’s mistakes.

    • Steve Smith on July 18, 2019 at 6:51 pm


      Thanks for writing to your Exchange Post! I appreciate taking time to write a note. I’ve forwarded your info along to Steve Groll, in case he misses it on the website.

      Steve Smith
      Editor, The Exchange Post

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