How does your organisation deal with complaints? It’s amazing how many organisations I come across that have not got a formal complaints procedure, and use a very ‘ad hoc’ system for dealing with any complaints they receive. If you have not got a formal written procedure, then you are asking for trouble.
If your company does not have a formal written procedure (even if you are running a really small company) then you need to put one together and make sure that all your staff are aware of the procedure and know how to use it.
Having a formal customer complaints process has various advantages such as ensuring that complaints are correctly recorded and dealt with efficiently and in a timely fashion. In addition, a formal complaints process can help to ensure that customers are all treated equally and fairly because staff have to follow the same procedure, regardless of the customer. Don’t leave yourself open to legal claims under the Equality Act 2010 by treating complaints differently between customers. A formal written complaints procedure will prevent this from happening.
A customer complaints process also has several internal benefits to the company, for example in helping to identify areas in need of improvement, helping to find trends amongst complaints, and finding areas where staff might need further training and development.
What are the main features of a good complaints procedure?
All customer complaints procedures should be clear and transparent, using easy-to-find contact details for the complaint (and make sure you include a phone number and postal address in addition to any online complaints system).
Staff should be fully trained in using the complaints procedure and the organisation needs to show a genuine commitment to resolving complaints effectively, not just paying lip service to the complainant.
It is also important that when someone complains they receive a timely acknowledgement of their complaint, and that they are given information on who will deal with the complaint and how long the process will take (which by law has to be as quickly as possible).
Your complaints procedure also needs to be clear about how your company will make amends if the complaint is upheld, and also to make clear your policy regarding refunds, returns and compensation.
Finally, an effective complaints procedure needs to have a formal method of recording the complaint so that this information can be used in the future for measuring Key Performance Indicators, service levels, and most importantly - to help prevent any similar complaints in the future.
And remember: research shows that if a complaint is handled well, then the customer is actually more likely to buy from you again than if they had never complained in the first place. So complaints are something to be welcomed, not to be feared!
If you would like help in putting together a formal complaints procedure for your organisation, the editor of this blog will be happy to help. You can contact him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone on 0113 2796844.