The Other Side of the Coin – The PQRS of Redressal

If you accept the four ‘rights’ for a complainant, then perhaps the PQRS of redressal (catchy title – check, bullets – check, simple once you’ve read it – check, absurdly familiar to someone else you repeat this to – check) might also be worth spending some time on. 

Disclaimer: No theorists were mangled, misquoted or otherwise publicized in creating the material for this approach. 

P for Process and Possession
  • Process: Keep the process as simple and clear-cut for your stakeholders as possible. The simpler and more direct the process, the better – if I have to push ten buttons for ten different menu choices in an IVRS when I am already displeased, or if I have to find my way through a convoluted system of reportees and authorities to air my grievance, you make an already bad situation worse. In the first case, I get frustrated to the point I do not give you the chance to even hear me out. In the second case, I am sharing my side of the story, unopposed, to every keg in the wheel before I get to the right person – which means that even internally, your image takes a hit. Imagine an employee who wants to complain about discrimination in the workplace. A single, aimless/fruitless iteration through a single department will yield you three more employees who will start to think they are also being discriminated against.
  • Possession: Once you have the complaint before you, take ownership of the issue. Nothing can be more infuriating to a complainant than to see the complaint being orphaned. In back-end service organizations, the easiest tickets are often bastardized with multiple claimants – or in sales, where people vie for the easiest/least troublesome accounts/complaints – and at the end, you have someone who’s stuck with complaints he does not want to handle. It is important that the issues be owned by someone who actually wants to see a resolution – and if that is not you, then the complaint shouldn’t have come to you in the first place.

Q for Quest and Questioning
  • Quest: Once a complaint has been received, the effort to resolve it should resemble a quest. A passionate, committed, no-stone-left-unturned approach that requires end-to-end ownership and the ability to view the picture at all levels. It is akin to strategy, where your destination is as important as your starting point, for the simple reason that your destination then forms the starting point for the next round. A customer might be willing to accept failure if he knows that sincere efforts were expended, but if nothing went in… then nothing comes out.
  • Questioning: Common fallacies in issue resolution are the anchoring and recency effects. Anchoring is when you accept the complainant’s version and proceed on that basis – and the complaint might just as well be a CYA (cover your a$$) measure as a genuine grievance. It’s in fact a lose-lose situation – on a genuine complaint, if you fail to explore all alternatives, you may not realize what actually went wrong or where your system failed; if you operate on an erroneous foundation, you end up wronging someone else. Remember all those times you went crying to your mother about how Shyam, your next-door neighbour, pushed you down… after you’d kicked him in the shin, called him names and let the air out of his cycle?
    Recency is when you keep getting swayed by every new piece of information or opinion you come across. This is usually a medical condition found in people who hold leadership positions without having done anything to deserve being there. Like politicians and your next boss.

R for Refine and Reserve
  • Refine: From the catchall approach above, there will come a time when you will need to hunker down and isolate the issues immediately relevant. A sexual harassment suit brought against a senior employee usually starts with the caveat of ‘guilty until proven innocent’ (mainly because the legal risks are too great for an organization to suppose otherwise), interviewing other employees who may have faced the same situation, determining if this was a one-off incident or a part of a pattern of abuse, the reasons for the same… You need to pour everything into a funnel and then use filters to get rid of the noise around the issue.
  • Reserve: Refining the crude gets you the starting point for recovery. At the same time, just as you don’t cross a road without looking in both directions (even – or should I say especially – on one-way streets in India), you still cannot afford to jump the gun and run naked through the streets shouting Eureka (granted, I am probably overdoing it with the metaphors just a little bit here!) Hold your judgement and try to validate it with other indicators if possible. Remember Muphy’s law.

S for Solve and Sanitize
  • Solve: Finally, address the concerns of the complainant and provide a solution that satisfies the actual aggrieved party. Whoever that is. The whole effort is wasted if the beneficiaries of your judgement do not become beneficiaries of its execution. If I find out that my employee over-billed my client – who complained – and I still defend him or choose to stay quiet on the issue, that client is going to take his business somewhere else next time.
  • Sanitize: The benefit of redressing a complaint is that it allows you to plug weak spots in your own value delivery system. Whether it’s an employee, a customer or a shareholder who’s been wronged, it’s in my best interests to sanitize the system so that the same issue does not crop up again – or, if it did, there is a faster route to resolution.
    Why would it be beneficial? Obviously, so that I will not have to spend my time and efforts on the same thing all over again. And perhaps not so obviously, I might be at the receiving end myself some time in future.
So there you have it – the PQRS of complaint redressal. It tells you nothing you already didn’t know, especially the order of the alphabets (I had originally intended this to be SPQR, with different expansions, but decided it might have been too confusing for some). Will it help you in retaining your customers, your employees, your shareholders or your spouse? Maybe… but it should certainly go a long way towards making you sound wise and managerial. 

Which, as Keats once wrote, 

… – that is all 

Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.