No matter what size a business is or what it does, effective complaints management is vital.
It can help prevent unhappy customers from taking their business elsewhere. It gives your business an opportunity to exceed those customers’ expectations. And it provides valuable intelligence about what your business is doing right and what it’s doing wrong.
Depending on your industry, it may also be a requirement for ensuring public safety and complying with applicable regulations.
Complaints handling: the basics
All businesses should have an established complaints handling policy. At its most basic, this is a document that lets staff know how they’re likely to encounter complaints – for example, by phone or in person – and what steps to take if and when they do.
A basic procedure for handling complaints should detail the following steps:
- listening to the complaint
- getting all the facts and recording details of the complaint
- discussing options to resolve the issue with the customer
- acting quickly to resolve the issue
- keeping any promises made to the customer
- following up to ensure the customer is satisfied.
Complaints management challenges
Especially for smaller businesses, complaints management can be challenging. Without dedicated resources, it’s often handled inconsistently.
The results may be mixed at best, with:
- holes in the information that’s recorded
- follow-up that’s too slow (or never happens)
- customers given different information each time they talk to a different member of staff
- lack of coordination in the action taken to respond
- failure to check that action taken has really fixed the problem for the customer.
Specific complaints management challenges add to the difficulties.
Inaccessibility for customers
The procedure for customers to make complaints should be as simple and straightforward as possible.
Direct helplines and email address are best. Having to transfer customers who are already dissatisfied to other departments leads to delays, miscommunication and increased frustration.
Incomplete information about complaints
To comply with FDA or ISO standards, or other regulations, your company may be required to record specific information about complaints and about the actions taken to resolve them.
Inaccurate or incomplete information hampers complaint resolution.
It can also prevent a business from picking up on warning signs that something is wrong. Complaints may point to important, underlying quality and even safety issues.
Appropriate complaints management software can ensure that the right information is captured and stored about each complaint your business receives.
No (or disorganized) escalation of complaints
Too often, complaints fail to be resolved because they’re recorded but not escalated to someone who is clearly accountable for addressing them.
There may also be inconsistencies or gaps in what’s communicated about complaints as escalation occurs.
Even in a small to medium business, it’s best to draw up a formal complaints escalation process. This gives clarity, defining:
- when a complaint should be escalated
- to whom the complaint must be escalated (who’s responsible for the next step?)
- what information must be captured and forwarded, and how
- what timeframe should be involved in escalating the complaint and taking the next step.
Appropriate complaints management software makes it much easier to implement and enforce a complaints escalation process.
Once set up, it does most of the work – for example, by ensuring complete information is available to the authorized party and automating workflows and notifications.
Complaints management procedures need to include effective tools for capturing data.
Accurate, complete records are needed to ensure that complaints can be satisfactorily addressed.
These records, along with an archive of past complaints, are also required for compliance with a number of quality standards.
Complaints management standards
Complaint tracking and management are key components of an effective quality management system. That’s why a number of quality standards set requirements specifically for complaints management procedures.
Just some examples of these standards are:
- ISO 10002:2018 Quality Management – Customer Satisfaction – Guidelines for Complaints Handling in Organizations
An international standard for handling customer complaints related to products or services.
- ISO 10004:2018 Quality Management – Customer Satisfaction – Guidelines for Monitoring and Measuring
An international standard and guidelines for monitoring and measuring customer satisfaction.
- ISO 10003:2018 Quality Management – Customer Satisfaction – Guidelines for dispute resolution external to organization
An international standard for resolving external complaints related to products or services.
- ISO 10001:2018 Quality Management – Customer Satisfaction – Guidelines for codes of conduct for organizations
The international standard for building and maintaining codes of conduct for organizations to improve customer satisfaction.
- EFQM Excellence Model
A European model that details the means to excellence and common vocabulary for organizations to achieve quality excellence.
- Balridge Excellence Framework
A framework for organizations to achieve on-going quality success through their systems.
Complaints management software
It’s very much simpler than it was in the past for businesses to set up effective complaints management systems.
Using complaints management software, even small businesses can readily capture, store and retrieve complaints management records. They can automate escalation processes and notifications, and track complaints to ensure they’re satisfactorily resolved. And they can analyze historical complaints, to spot trends and identify areas for improvement.
This makes it much simpler to comply with applicable standards. It can lead to overall quality improvements and happier customers, too.
isoTracker complaints management software
At isoTracker, we offer modular, cloud-based quality management software, including complaints management software.
Our complaints management module is specifically designed to enable easy compliance with ISO and FDA standards, and other quality standards with complaints management requirements.
It provides a comprehensive system for recording, assigning, and investigating complaints. It also includes built-in corrective and preventive action (CAPA) features, for ensuring that complaints and their root causes are fully addressed.
Contact us to find out more or to discuss your company’s complaint management software needs.