How To Handle Customer Complaints

I spent seven long years working in professional complaint handling in one of Canary Wharf’s lavish glass buildings. You know the ones that kiss the grey London skyline and shimmer on those rare summer days?

During my time there, I worked tirelessly to investigate and resolve a wide range of complaints. I also built up an extensive knowledge of best practices, theory and customer experience skills.

It was a tough job, but I learnt so much. 

Many companies both large and small lack the right infrastructure to deal with complaints effectively. In this post I’ll be setting out the key elements your organisation needs to implement so they can handle complaints successfully. 

The Right To Complain 

Every customer across every industry has the right to complain. In some industries such as financial services and local authorities this right is taken more seriously. Whether you are selling goods, providing a service or even running a charity; the people you serve are within their rights to voice any dissatisfactions they may have. 

This is a very important point as often a complaining customer can be dismissed and their right to complain is totally disregarded. Every person in your organisation should understand that consumers are allowed to complain whether the complaint seems valid or not. 

Complaint Handling Procedure 

Your company needs a documented complaint handling procedure. This should set out the process for handling complaints and who is responsible for them. A good process will be easy for employees to follow and implement. I would highly recommend using a process where a complaint is taken through various stages to achieve a resolution. 

Here is an example created by The Experience Corporation: 

  1. Information – The first stage involves gathering all the information you need about the complaint. Aim to find out what has gone wrong and what the complainant wants to put things right. 
  2. Investigation – The next stage is all about getting to the bottom of what has happened by piecing together any evidence you have. Evidence can include customer testimony’s, bank statements, photos, faulty goods ect…
  3. Resolution – At this point you should reach an outcome on the complaint. The customer has either won or lost the complaint. 
  4. Close / Escalation – The final stage involves closing the complaint if the customer accepts the resolution. If the customer wants to take things further, they can bring the complaint to a manager, the relevant ombudsman or a trade body.

Frontline Staff Training 

Dealing with customer complaints can be very challenging and overwhelming. Complaint handlers and customer service reps should be equipped with the skills they need to handle complaints effectively. 

Employees should be trained on the following topics: 

  • The company’s complaint handling procedure 
  • Regulations that apply to complaint handling (depending on country and industry)
  • Dealing with challenging customers 
  • Dealing with vulnerable customers 
  • Delivering complaint outcomes 
  • Professional communication 
  • Resilience 
  • Escalation rights 
  • Email writing for complaints 

Training should be a continuous opportunity for customer facing teams as there is always something more to learn. This will also help your service staff to increase their capacity to deal with complaints effectively. 

Management Training 

Team managers should be equipped to deal with particularly challenging complaints and should become experts in the following areas: 

  • Customer escalation rights 
  • Dealing with frustrated callers 
  • Responding to complex complaints 
  • Reviewing complaint evidence 
  • Reaching a fair outcome 

Too often managers are not equipped with these skills which can cause delays to complaints resulting in a poor customer experience. 

Guides And Resources 

Your organisation should have a library of complaint handling resources to help employees deal with complaints. The library should include at the bare minimum:

  • A complaint handling procedure 
  • A guide to compensation 
  • Complaint handling best practices 
  • Case studies of complaints and outcomes

All resources should be kept in one place using a cloud storage system such as Dropbox or Google Docs. Alternatively, they can be stored on an internal data system or a place on your company’s intranet. This will ensure all staff can access the resources they need to navigate the complex task of complaint handling. 

The Experience Academy 

The Experience Academy provides on demand high quality e learning for your team (s). We cover off complaint handling in extensive detail through online video courses, course manuals and cheat sheets. 

Our exclusive waitlist is open for new corporate companies who employ customer facing staff. Let us take staff training off your plate so you can focus on leadership, strategy and your people. 

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