Savvy organizations embrace customer feedback—even complaints. They understand that customer complaints are essential indicators of expectations and perceptions of quality. ISO 9001:2015 Quality Management Systems, in clause 9 – Performance Evaluation, requires complaint handling mechanisms.
Today’s complaints come from a wide variety of sources, including social media, e-commerce sites and other online forums, in addition to email, in-person, and other traditional sources.
Today’s reality is that complaints may have nothing at all to do with product or service attributes. Instead, social justice concerns and other environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues may eclipse the physical or other direct attributes of the product or service.
Especially with the proliferation of online and other instantaneous ways to complain, complaints may come from persons who are not even customers.
Decades ago, BMW had a tagline that described their car as the “ultimate driving machine”. The updated tagline now describes their car as the “ultimate driving experience”. The change in the tagline is symbolic of the shift organizations must make in their approach to quality. It is no longer about the machine, product or service alone. Sporting a brand from an organization with a favourable ESG stance may create feelings of satisfaction beyond the brand in and of itself. Likewise, customers will complain if they think the organizations that make their favourite brands lack diversity or otherwise fail to meet their corporate social responsibility.
Improve your complaint handling mechanisms
Robust complaint handling mechanisms respond to diverse sources and types of complaints. They empower all employees to respond to customer complaints. They appreciate the insight into consumer satisfaction, and opportunities to improve processes, products, and social responsibility. Ask the following 6 questions to improve complaint handling systems:
- Do you have a consistent process for identifying, documenting, investigating and tracking complaints?
- Do you perform root-cause analyses of complaints to discover the true nature of each complaint?
- Are cross-functional teams involved in complaint investigations where appropriate? For example, it is one thing to have the sales and service department address a complaint without delay. But, will the accounting department process the customer’s refund or credit with the same speed?
- Do you follow-up with customers to ensure that they are satisfied with the resolutions to their complaints?
- Do you periodically analyze complaints to identify trends and patterns, which reveal much more meaningful insight than the individual complaints?
- Do you use the results from complaint handling systems to continuously improve the complaint mechanism, products, services and processes?
Meeting your duty of care
Maintain a complaint handling system to gather, investigate, act upon, and analyze customer complaints. Use the results to inform continuous improvement of products, services, processes and social responsibility.
Log in to Volume III – Operations and Marketing PolicyPro to access OP 3.04 – Complaint Handling and other policies and tools to help you implement and sustain effective quality management systems, based on ISO and other standards. Not a subscriber? Request a free 30-day trial of Operations and Marketing PolicyPro here.