Tips for managing complaints

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When choosing your approach for communicating with a customer, think about how you would like to be treated if you were making a complaint to a business.

Model the type of conversation you want to have with customers who are making a complaint. This may include making it clear to the customer that you are eager to listen and treating them with courtesy and consideration.

If your customer is agitated or hostile, explain to them that a calm, courteous level of conversation will be the fastest way to resolve their issue. You can also ask for their commitment to courtesy.

The following tips offer approaches to managing a customer complaint on an interpersonal level and an organisation-wide level.

Interpersonal approaches to managing complaints

  • Speak to the customer in person.
  • Thank the customer for raising their complaint with you.
  • Treat the customer with genuine empathy, courtesy, patience, honesty and fairness.
  • Respond to the complaint quickly.
  • Tell the customer how you will handle the complaint. If you can't resolve their complaint on the spot, tell them what will happen next and when. Ensure that you are honest and realistic.
  • Show the customer that you understand.
  • Research the situation before you speak to the customer (e.g. check records, speak to staff and check how these compare with the customer's version of events).
  • Listen intently, ask questions to clarify and summarise back to the customer your understanding of what they've said.
  • Don't jump to conclusions, lay blame or become defensive.
  • Focus on solutions and involve the customer in developing them. Negotiate a solution that is to everyone's satisfaction.
  • Keep the customer updated on progress, act quickly on promises and inform them when an action is completed. Tell them how you will prevent the issue from happening again.

Organisational approaches to managing complaints

  • Assign one person to manage each complaint to its outcome.
  • Make sure staff members who deal with complaints have the full authority to organise solutions that are acceptable to customers.
  • When staff members who deal with complaints can't resolve them, make sure they can refer complaints directly to another person who can.
  • Make sure the customer is satisfied with the proposed solution before proceeding.
  • Work within statutory requirements, ensuring both the customer's rights and your own rights are protected.
  • Follow up with the customer within a week to make sure that issues have been resolved to their satisfaction.

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