Processing Complaints

Acknowledge receipt of all complaints

 

It is best to acknowledge all complaints promptly, as soon as they are received (if not received in person)
Think about how to respond to the complaint.
Some customers/clients may prefer that you adopt the method they used to complain (eg email). However, sometimes picking up the phone works best.

Letter

You might want to acknowledge receipt of the complaint in writing. A template for a Letter of Acknowledgement and a Complaints Response Letter are found here

Social media

Social networking has the power to make or break your business reputation, as the public will readily believe customers when they write about good or bad experiences with a business. You can use social media and social networking sites to respond to and monitor complaints.

KEY

You can use the LEARNT six step process to respond to complaints in person or in writing.

Make sure you regularly and carefully monitor social networking sites closely and respond accordingly.

When writing a letter to acknowledge receipt of a complaint, make sure the language is clear and has a polite tone, and ensure it includes all the customer’s issues, what you have done so far, and any ongoing action and next steps, as well as a time frame for when they can expect to hear from you again.

Tips for using social media for complaints handling:

  • Be prepared:  when you set up your social media accounts, prepare rules and flow sheets for staff to ensure they all know how to respond to complaints.
  • Listen carefully and really understand the person’s problem, before you respond.
  • Respond quickly (within a day) to show you really care about your customers.
  • Apologise first, by saying: ‘I’m sorry for your bad experience,’ followed by that person’s first name. Make sure your tone is positive.
  • You can build loyalty and trust by responding to complaints with a positive message. (Sourdin, 2016) There have been many studies done on the effectiveness of apologies.

For guidance on how to make a meaningful apology when someone complaints, visit www.spso.org.uk
Thank your customers. You can also thank them by giving them something in return (for example, a voucher).

KEY POINTS

Customers want to know something happened as a result of their complaint

Respond quickly! Most people expect a response within 24 hours – even if the response is that you are looking into it

Publicise what you do to improve your products or services and build your reputation

Monitor social networking – your customers will believe other customers before believing your advertising

Build a great experience for customers when they complain

CASE STUDY

MICHAEL IS A LAWYER WHO PRACTICES AS A SOLE PRACTITIONER IN HIS OWN FIRM. ONE OF HIS CLIENTS POSTS A MESSAGE ON MICHAEL’S PROFESSIONAL FACEBOOK PAGE WHILE MICHAEL IS ON LEAVE, COMPLAINING THAT HE THINKS THAT HIS BILL IS INCORRECT. WHEN MICHAEL SEES THE COMPLAINT, HE IMMEDIATELY POSTS AN ACKNOWLEDGEMENT OF THE COMPLAINT AND CALLS THE CLIENT. HE TELLS HIS CLIENT THAT HE WILL CHECK THE BILL AND RESPOND TO THE COMPLAINT THE FOLLOWING DAY WHEN HE IS BACK IN HIS OFFICE.

‘If you make customers unhappy in the physical world, they might each tell six friends. If you make customers unhappy on the internet, they can each tell 6,000 friends.’ – Jeff Bezos, amazon.com

Assess the complaint

 

Steps for assessing the complaint

There are some important steps you need to take in order to effectively assess a complaint. These are:

  • Identify whether or not the complaint is one that means you have obligations under the Australian Consumer Law, 2011 (ACL) – see here
  • Assess the level of seriousness of the complaint (for example, is it an urgent health issue?)
  • Work out whether the complaint is about a product or service, and therefore, who is the most appropriate person to deal with this complaint
  • Consider whether there are multiple complaints and if so, whether they need to be dealt with separately
  • Consider the situation of the person making the complaint (are they more vulnerable than some?)

Vulnerable consumers

Some customers might be especially vulnerable.
For example, they may not be fluent in English, have an intellectual or physical disability, have a very low income or be experiencing a crisis.
It is important that your business allows these people to make complaints easily and that they are dealt with in a way that will be most helpful for them.
Working out whether a person is having these difficulties requires you to have an assessment process in place.
For more information on vulnerable consumers, please refer to Vulnerable Consumers Factsheet here

Manage expectations

You need to provide the person who made the complaint with information about what you intend to do about the complaint and evaluate the person’s response. If you feel that it is likely the described action will satisfy the complainant, then you should take this action promptly, but if further review of the complaint is necessary, give the complainant a clear timeframe for when to expect a response or a progress update (Standards Australia, 2014).

Service guarantees

Some organisations have service guarantees. Service guarantees let customers know in advance that they will receive a refund or compensation if they are unsatisfied with the product or service. This means customers know what to expect, and complaints are minimal.
To use service guarantees, your business must be very confident about every aspect of its service and products. These guarantees can offer a competitive advantage compared with other similar businesses. If the guarantees are fulfilled, this helps to show that your business is honest. (Cook, 2012).

 

Research shows that 40% of complaints arise because customers have inadequate information about a product or a service. (TARP, 1990).

Communication and commitments

KEY POINTS

If progress on a complaint is delayed, tell the complainant as soon as you can. Make sure the complainant knows when they can expect to hear from you.

The key to complaint management and managing expectations for the customer, is good communication. Making sure when the customer can expect to hear from you is important, and it is also important to keep your promises. If you say you will get back to a customer at a certain time, make sure you do this, even if you haven’t been able to progress the resolution.

CASE STUDY

JANE OWNS A CUPCAKE FRANCHISE WHICH HAS BECOME VERY BUSY OVER THE SUMMER MONTHS, CATERING FOR END OF YEAR AND SEASONAL PARTIES. DURING ONE PARTICULARLY BUSY WEEK, SOME OF THE ORDERS OF CUPCAKES WERE RUSHED, AND SOME DID NOT RECEIVE THEIR ICING. WHEN THE CUSTOMER RANG TO COMPLAIN ABOUT THE CUPCAKES NOT BEING COMPLETE, SHE APOLOGISED IMMEDIATELY, AND ASKED WHEN THE CUPCAKES WERE NEEDED. THE CUSTOMER TOLD HER SHE NEEDED THEM THE FOLLOWING DAY, HOWEVER JANE WAS NOT SURE WHEN SHE WOULD BE ABLE TO PROVIDE THE COMPLETE CUPCAKES. SHE TOLD THE CUSTOMER OVER THE PHONE THAT SHE WOULD SEND THEM A TEXT MESSAGE BY 3PM THAT DAY, EITHER LETTING THE CUSTOMER KNOW WHEN SHE COULD EXPECT TO RECEIVE A NEW BATCH OF CUPCAKES, OR, IF SHE COULD NOT PROVIDE THEM BY THE FOLLOWING DAY, PROVIDING THE DETAILS OF ANOTHER CUPCAKE PROVIDER(FROM THE SAME FRANCHISE) WHO SHE KNEW COULD SUPPLY THE CUPCAKES THE FOLLOWING DAY. AT 3PM JANE SENT A TEXT MESSAGE TO THE CUSTOMER LETTING HER KNOW SHE COULD PROVIDE THE CUPCAKES EARLY THE NEXT MORNING.

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