Staff Awareness and Frontline Resolution

You need to make sure that all staff in your business understand the complaint handling system and know who to contact and what to do when a complaint is received. The first step is ensuring that you have the right people working in your business – people who understand your customer service approach and who are going to be responsive, respectful, as well as being good listeners.

Best practice complaint management has been identified as “including the need not only for speed of resolution but also a human touch” (Johnston and Mehra, 2002)

You should try to resolve all disputes at the lowest level possible, and only escalate complaints as a last resort. This involves empowering and educating all staff to either respond to a complaint or refer it to the most appropriate person.
When dealing with complainants, your staff should be:

  • Responsive
  • Respectful
  • Good at listening
  • Direct and clear

It is important for your business to have a known policy and process and guidelines for how to re-solve disputes, and also for staff to share information about disputes amongst themselves, and with you, as their manager. You should have criteria for when a complaint should be escalated to a higher level for resolution, and you need to en-sure that you and your staff are accurately re-cording information in relation to complaints received.

Competency frameworks and staff training

One way to ensure that all staff are competent to deal with complaints effectively, is to use a com-plaint handling competency framework. In order to achieve competency and continue to remain competent, staff need to receive continual training. You can access the Australian Competency and Ethical Framework for Complaint Professionals here.

Here is a simple framework that you can use and teach your staff, which focusses on the skills and behaviours needed for dealing effectively with complaints. It is called the LEARNT process for dealing with complaints. (Cook, 2012).

Figure 6.1 box

Figure 6

Key points

  • Try to resolve disputes at the lowest level possible and make sure staff members understand their roles in complaint handling.
  • Make sure your staff are continually refreshing their knowledge about complaints handling and your policies and procedures, and that they understand what aspects of the complaint they need to record.

Acknowledge Receipt of All Complaints

It is best to acknowledge all complaints promptly, as soon as they are received (if not received in person)



Methods for acknowledging receipt of complaints

Consider the most appropriate way to communicate with the complainant to acknowledge their complaint and then resolve it. You need to communicate in a way which suits your business, but also listen to any preferences they might have. For example, if they complained using postal mail, you might also send them a letter to acknowledge the complaint and then communicate with them as you progress. In many cases, you might make a phone call to them first in order to acknowledge their complaint immediately, before the letter arrives.

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