The Hawk-Eye approach to customer complaints

The Australian Open has been won and lost for another year. I’ve written before about what tennis serving can teach us about loss aversion, so this time I want to bring attention to a piece of technology that has become part and parcel of the Grand Slam experience. Hawk-Eye.

Hawk-Eye influences player behaviour

The Hawk-Eye system is a piece of ball tracking technology designed to verify the accuracy of umpiring and line decisions, and is called upon to review whether the ball fell in or out of court.

The interesting thing about Hawk-Eye, and why it has a lesson for business, is how it has changed player behaviour.

In the days before Hawk-Eye, players could dispute any line call. John McEnroe was the most famous for doing just that, culminating in him being ejected from the Australian Open in 1990.

Now players have three Hawk-Eye ‘challenges’ per set to use as and when they wish. If they are proven correct, they retain their challenge. If they are not, they lose one of their three (researchers claim around 40% of challenges are incorrect).

And this is the interesting part. Since they’ve been given the right to challenge and an allocation to do so, they are much less prone to get angry at lines people.

Why? Power. Players have been given power to escalate their concern about a line call to an impartial third party – Hawk-Eye.

Reduce customer complaints by letting them complain

It’s never great when a customer feels they haven’t received what they wanted or been treated how they expected, but it happens.

Worse, though, is allowing that dissatisfaction to fester because the issue can quickly lose all sense of proportion. In your customer’s mind, it becomes akin to a violation of their human rights. Suddenly they are venting through social media and swearing their life’s work will be to ruin you. In short, they become angry about not being able to tell you they are angry.

At the heart of their reaction is how fairly they feel treated by you. Just like Hawk-Eye, if they know there is a clear process they can enact which will look at their issue as objectively as possible, they will much more likely to calm down and stay reasonable.

In behavioural terms this is called “procedural fairness”, where people are more likely to accept an outcome if they believe they have been treated fairly.  

In practical terms, that means you should:

  • Have and communicate a complaints process
  • Keep them informed of the progress of their complaint
  • Advise them of the outcome
  • Be clear about the rationale of the decision

Will that create more customer complaints? Not necessarily. Just being given the power to lodge a complaint can be enough to diffuse the need for it. It’s a bit like offering free returns – the value you get from offering is much greater than the number of people who will actually bother. Cede some power to your customer and you’ll find life is better for everyone involved.

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