6 Tips for Effective Customer Complaint Management

6 Tips for Effective Customer Complaint Management

If managed effectively, complaints are a gateway to improvement. They detect flaws, boost quality and strengthen customer relations.

Software companies receive complaints about computer bugs, schools about bullying, banks about fees, hospitals about housekeeping needs and city hall about potholes.

Every product, service and industry has complaints. Despite their regularity, companies still tend to demonize or disregard those who make complaints, often damaging relationships and risking noncompliance.

Instead of ignoring complaints, develop a process that makes it easier to resolve them and learn from them. Here are six tips for more effective complaint management.

Looking to refine your complaint management process further? Download this cheat sheet to learn Best Practices for Handling Complaints.

Start with the Right Perspective

The right outlook is what separates effective complaint management plans from ineffective plans. Each person involved in the complaint management process must prioritize customers and understand that complaints are helpful, not harmful.

Complaints help companies to detect flaws and improve quality. Every complaint received is an opportunity to show the customer that their time and opinions are valuable. Focus on these opportunities and focus on the rewards.

Share the philosophy that customer complaints enhance your company and strengthen your relationships. Foster a company culture that recognizes the fundamental value of complaints and recognizes them as a gateway to improvement.

A Detailed Plan Will Keep Order

Complaint management is more effective and efficient when you have a procedure that's precise, detailed and well-documented. Without one, your complaint management efforts will be disorganized and misinformed.

Explain how to acknowledge and assess the complaint, plan and investigate the incident, respond appropriately, review the situation and follow up. Document the procedure step-by-step so anyone tasked with complaint management will do it properly.

When writing the procedure, it’s crucial that you get into the nitty-gritty. Include detailed steps for reassuring the complainant, establishing empathy, offering an apology and communicating next steps.

Hire Well, Train Better

If your complaint management process is ineffective, take a look at how the role is staffed. Maybe you don’t have the right person for the job, maybe they’re not trained well enough or maybe their training is out of date.

Fill the role with someone exceptional at addressing and resolving complaints. This individual should be logical, empathetic, creative and thick-skinned.

Then, make sure the new hire understands their role. Anyone who handles complaints needs to know the company, the product or service, the complaint management process, the policies and the customers.

Keep in mind that no amount of training can prepare them for every single complaint. Provide the new hire with a step-by-step plan to resolve issues, then give them the confidence and flexibility to improvise.

Clarify Roles for Accountability

Complaint management is usually a shared task. A complaint submitted using the online form might go to the web team. An angry email might go to the front desk clerk. Escalations or complaints of a certain severity might go to a manager.  An in-person complaint could be anyone’s responsibility.

With complaints coming in from multiple sources, you need a process that holds people accountable.

Effective complaint management should not only have clear, rigid roles, but they should be well broadcasted too. As a consumer, the only thing worse than your complaint being ignored is having it passed around for weeks with little result.

This tip is especially important for industries with stringent compliance regulations. Effective complaint management means never letting a complaint fall through the cracks. Complaint management software lets you track and assign complaints, so you can be sure the complaint is going to the right place or person.

Be Proactive: Analyze and Reflect

Responding to and resolving complaints is a great start, but effective complaint management goes a step further with analysis and reflection. Look closer: is each complaint a one-off or is there a trend? Could there be a root cause or another underlying factor?

With each complaint, take the time to conduct a trend analysis or root cause analysis. The former requires looking for overarching patterns and making necessary changes to resolve them. The latter considers the complaint only the tip of the iceberg and works to resolve the deeper root cause.

Using a Risk Assessment Matrix is a great way to pinpoint glaring risks, complaints or threats that need priority. 

Streamline with Software

Retail uses point-of-sale software, grocery stores use cash registers, clinics use online booking systems. So why do we still use stray Word documents for complaint management? Or worse, pen and paper?

Complaint management software offers powerful reporting capabilities, centralized case files and searchable records so you can respond quickly and keep your customers (or employees) happy.

i-Sight’s software makes it easier to respond to complaints quickly, assign and prioritize cases, manage tasks and due dates, generate insightful reports, spot trends and identify areas for improvement. With all these automated features, you have more time for other tasks.

Learn more about how case management software can streamline your customer complaint management process in our free eBook.