Inform the complainant about the outcome of their complaint

Once you have done everything possible from your perspective to resolve the complaint, let the complainant know the outcome. If this outcome is not satisfactory for the complainant, explain your decision and offer the complainant other possible actions or referrals. (Standards Australia, 2014).

To protect yourself and your business, you should let the complainant know via phone (or in person) as well as in writing, about the outcome of the complaint. If the outcome involves more than one aspect, you should detail each of these out-comes. For example, you might note that you are providing the customer with a refund and that you are providing them with an apology.
An example of a sample complaints handling letter can be found here. (LINK)

If the organisation has made an error and the customer’s complaint is justified, financial or non-financial compensation is appropriate. If the organisation is not at fault, a gesture of goodwill might still be necessary. (Cook, 2012)

Informing complainants about the outcome

Once the complaint has been considered or resolved, you need to communicate with the complainant about:

  • The action that was taken by your business in response to their complaint;
  • The outcome(s) of the complaint;
  • The reasons for the action taken and the decisions made;
  • What you are offering them (for example, compensation, apology, other resolutions or remedies); and
  • Information about what else they can do if they are not happy with this outcome and/or resolution (Standards Australia, 2014).

Publicising improvement

Some businesses publicise the actions that they have taken to improve their products and ser-vices, as a result of complaints they have re-ceived, so that all their customers and potential customers can see. (Cook, 2012). This can be done on a website, flyer or via social media.

‘Apologizing is embarrassing and frustrating – it’s an open surrender that you screwed up once out of the thousands of positive contributions you have made to your customers. However, a solid, heartfelt apology is true representation that your organization cares about the needs of the customer’ (Jeff Bezoz, Amazon.com)

Key points

  • Provide notice of the result, your reasons, and options for the complainant to take other possible action, in writing.
  • Take the opportunity to publicise your improvements as a result of complaints, so that other potential customers can see them.

 

What the Law says

Some industries and sectors will have extra legal obligations in relation to complaints. For example, in the health sector you may need to report a complaint. In the financial sector you may also have reporting or other requirements to handle the complaint in a particular way and refer it to an external dispute resolution system. When you receive a complaint you should know in advance what is required in your industry. In addition, there are other legal matters to consider and some of the most important are listed here. (see appendix 1 for this hyperlink).

Agreements

When a business makes an agreement about goods and services the agreement will usually set out the cost, time frames and the kinds of services provided. A well written agreement can help to ensure that everyone understands what is required and can also reduce the amount of complaints received. There are some matters that you are required by law to do when you make arrangements about goods and services and you cannot make an agreement not to do them. Sometimes, the law will only apply if the person or organisation who obtains the goods and services is a ‘consumer’.

Legislation

Some of the most relevant legislation in this area is The Australian Consumer Law, 2011 (ACL) which aims to protect consumers and ensure fair trading across Australia. You may need to consider and com-ply with the duties in the ACL.

Key points

  • Make sure you are aware of your legal obligations, if any, which might apply specifically to your business.
  • Make sure your agreements are well written and clear – get some advice about drafting agreements if you need to.

To be kept informed about competition and consumer law updates which relate to small businesses you can subscribe to the ACCC’s Small Business Information Network (SBIN) which is a free information service. Simply email your name and business details to smallbusinessinfo@accc.gov.au