Why managing complaints properly is so important? This is the feedback from your customers: they verify 100% of your product.
As long as they come back to you with a complaint, it will give you the possibility for improvement. Use this unique opportunity and manage the communication process and implementation of corrective action wisely.
It’s obvious that you need a procedure for handling customer complaints. This document should clearly describe the process for managing complaints and includes at least:
1) receiving the complaint;
2) entering data into system/ database;
3) collecting data;
4) investigating the complaint;
5) answering the client;
6) managing corrective actions.
TIP: Good practice is to describe this process in a flow chart. It is very easy to read, especially for people involved in the process.
TIP: Responsibilities for each step of managing the complaint should be defined. This could be done in a RACI table (responsible person, accountable person, consulted person and informed person) next to your process flow.
Zooming into the different parts of the procedure:
1) Receiving the complaint
- Define all possible sources how complaints are received, e.g. email, website, telephone;
- Define the minimum information that needs to be collected, e.g.
TIP: A picture of the complaint product and the actual issue gives a lot of details. This is a fast way to have details of the issue, as an enlargement of description.
2) Entering data into a system/ database
- identify different types of complaint, e.g. Major, Minor, Critical;
- put them into categories to group similar complaints for better analysis;
- based on the different types of complaint, define different processes to manage he complaint.
TIP: A database is maintained to track complaints by product identification, production dates, cause and origin of complaint.
3) Collecting data
- review all documentation from the production day the complaint is about;
- do not focus only on the quality checks. Remember that a lot of different processes could have an impact of the final quality. E.g. product change over on this or adjacent line, line downtime, maintenance activity.
TIP: collecting samples of the complained product is also very helpful. It gives the possibility to perform an analysis on the product.
TIP: This is the time you can use your retention samples: you have the product from that production date, and its immediately available to perform an analysis.
- involve other departments than quality in the investigation process;
- define the department that should be the leader of the process. The Quality department should be involved in this process, but more like a facilitator.
TIP: check for complaints of the same production date/batch but coming from different customers: there might be a structural issue that can evolve into an incident.
5) Answer to the client
- the process of managing complaints should define the timing to answer the customer after receiving the complaint;
- good practice is to send a confirmation that you have received the complaint and you started the investigation process;
- the timing for closing and managing a complaint should be adjusted to the type of complaint: Major, Minor, Critical.
TIP: There should be different timings to send the final answer to the customer and for closing all improvement actions. Remember that some actions can take a while, e.g. when it is an investment that has to be made of spare parts ordered.
6) Managing corrective actions
- maintain up-to-date information on implemented actions and closing date of customer complaints;
- sending the answer to the customer does not mean that the complaint is closed. Often actions defined still need to be managed.
Would you like to review your customer complaints process? Any points which could be improved or simplified? Then send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll see what we can do for you within our Call-an-Expert program.