Handling customer complaints

At some stage your business is likely to receive a customer complaint. Dealing with it in a positive and constructive manner will help to keep your customers.

In general customers who are unhappy with your product or service will not complain to you – but they will complain to others and take their business elsewhere. Managing customer complaints and resolving them quickly will result in improved business processes and repeat business.

Complaints handling policy

Develop a complaints handling policy. It should include reassuring customers that you value their feedback and you are committed to resolving their issues in a fair, timely and efficient manner.

It should also:

  • explain how customers can make a formal complaint
  • identify the steps you will take in discussing, addressing and resolving complaints
  • indicate some of the solutions you offer to resolve complaints
  • inform customers about your commitment to continuous improvement

Complaints handling procedure

Once you have developed a policy you can create a procedure for handling complaints. A procedure will ensure complaints are dealt with the same way, every time. The procedure should be easy to understand and follow by all your staff.

Your procedure could include the following steps.

  1. Listen to the complaint
    Thank the customer for bringing the matter to your attention. Apologise and accept ownership, don’t blame others and remain courteous.

  2. Record details of the complaint
    Go through the complaint in detail so you can understand exactly what the problem is. Keep records of all complaints in one central place or register. This will help you identify any trends or issues.

  3. Get all the facts
    Check that you have understood and recorded the details of the complaint correctly. Ask questions if necessary.

  4. Discuss options for fixing the problem
    Ask the customer what response they are seeking; it could be a repair, replacement, refund or apology. Decide if the request is reasonable.

  5. Act quickly
    Aim to resolve the complaint quickly. If you take a long time they tend to escalate.

  6. Keep your promises
    Keep the customer informed if there are any delays in resolving their request. Don’t promise things that you can’t deliver.

  7. Follow up
    Contact the customer to find out if they were satisfied with how their complaint was handled. Let them know what you are doing to avoid the problem in the future.

Make sure your staff are trained to follow your procedure when handling complaints and that they have the power to resolve issues as quickly as possible.

Encourage your customers to provide feedback and complaints so that they let you know when there is a problem and give you the opportunity to resolve it.

TIP: If you provide goods and services to customers you will need to be familiar with your obligations and rights under the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 (CCA). You can learn more about the CCA in the legal matters section of our website.

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