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The 5 W’s of Complaint Management: Back to Basics

The 5 W’s of Complaint Management: Back to Basics

100-step complaint management procedures are informative and detailed, but unnecessary.

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Perhaps we’re overcomplicating complaint management strategies and overlooking what it’s really about. Instead of giving you a slew of bells and whistles, we’re bringing it all back to the basics.

Put away the endless forms, apps and spreadsheets. Case management software can streamline your entire complaint management process. Learn more here.


At its core, complaint management is a process (or series of processes) used to handle, address and resolve customer complaints.

Your first step is to have strong systems in place that allow you to effectively gather and organize complaints. To ensure that you have good practices for handling complaints, ask yourself these six questions:

  1. Do you have designated people listening to customers?
  2. Are employees trained to handle complaints?
  3. How are complaints recorded?
  4. Are complaints being properly documented? Are details clear and concise?
  5. Are complaints being dealt with in a timely manner?
  6. Is the customer satisfied with the solution? Is the customer satisfied with the service they received?

If you answered “yes” (or something positive) to these questions, then you’re off to a great start.


Your customers. They are the most important “who” here.  When a complaint happens, your focus should be on making the customer happy again.

A secondary “who” is your company and employees. Make sure that your employees are properly trained and understand company policies and procedures regarding complaint handling. Also, they should be always smiling and friendly when interacting with the customer, even if the customer is frustrated and irritable.


As soon as possible. No one likes being on hold. Likewise, no one likes when their issues and concerns go unanswered for a long period of time. Answering your customers in a timely manner will either meet their expectations or pleasantly surprise them. Either way, your demonstration of quick service will surely be impressive.


Where you offer complaint management depends on the size, scope and personal preference of your company.  Is your company open to handling complaints face-to-face with the customer? Can clients contact you by phone? Through email?

Social media is also growing as a new channel to handle complaints directly on Facebook or Twitter pages. This means acknowledging the complaint, then handling it on the social media page directly or referring the customer to another channel to get more help.

Whichever channel(s) you use to receive complaints, just make sure that someone is there to help.


When customers have a bad experience, they want to know that someone is listening and willing to make amends. Good complaint management will help diffuse the customer’s anger and re-establish trust by preparing your employees to serve the customer efficiently and effectively.

Above all, customers want a company that will exhibit genuine care for customers, acting with commitment and treating them like individuals. Even when something goes wrong, good customer service can make up for a negative experience.

Complaint management is also good for you. Tracking and analyzing complaints will reveal weaknesses in your company and how you can improve. Having a system to manage complaints will allow you to organize complaints, which can give you insights into re-occurring complaints and complaint volumes.

This kind of information is useful in making changes to your practices, which will make your business shine and appeal to both existing and potential customers.