Receiving a complaint about your business can be daunting.

As a business owner it is important that you have an effective Complaint Policy in place. This will ultimately ensure that complaints made about your business are dealt with fairly, efficiently and effectively. 

Dealing with complaints is not any business owner’s favourite task, however, if you have the correct policies and mechanisms in place, you will be putting your business in the best possible position to continue its success. 

What Is Considered A Complaint?

A complaint is when a customer expresses their dissatisfaction with your business’s product or service.

Examples of when a complaint may be made include when:

  • A customer is dissatisfied with the process of receiving your business’s product or  service
  • Your business’s product or service was not what the customer expected it to be 
  • A customer believes that your marketing was misleading  
  • A customer is dissatisfied with how your employees treated them

In your business’s day to day operations there are numerous occasions where there is potential for a complaint to be made. 

Complaints can be daunting and may even appear threatening to the success of your business. 

This is why it is necessary to put adequate and effective mechanisms in place to deal with complaints about your business. Doing so will ultimately ensure that any complaints received are dealt with quickly and effectively. 

The Importance Of A Complaints Handling Policy 

Whether your business receives a large or minimal amount of complaints, it is vital that your business adopts a Complaint Handling Policy. 

Establishing a Complaints Handling Policy specifically tailored to your business’s operations will allow your business to deal with complaints in a constructive manner with an ultimate objective to achieve resolution. 

According to the NSW Ombudsman, the purpose of a Complaints Handling Policy is to handle complaints fairly, efficiently and effectively. 

Your business’s Complaints Handling Policy indicates to your customers that you are committed to ensuring the best possible outcome for both your business and the customer when a complaint is made. 

Further, when construing your Complaints Handling Policy your business should aim to: 

  • Respond to complaints in a timely and cost-effective manner 
  • Boost your customers confidence in your business’s administrative policies 
  • Consider complaints as a tool to improve your business’s products, services, staff and complaint handling. 

What Should be In A Complaints Handling Policy? 

 1. How To Make A Complaint

It is necessary for your Complaint Handling Policy to detail how and where your customers can make a formal complaint about your business. 

For example, UberEats has a clear and easily accessible process for making complaints here

As displayed by UberEats, having preconceived complaint topics such as ‘my food was not what I ordered’, can assist your customers when specifying their complaint. 

2. Detail How You Will Deal With The Complaint

It is important that you are  transparent with your customers about how your business deals with complaints. This means detailing exactly how you discuss, analyse and arrive at an outcome for when a complaint is made. 

This may include detailing: 

  • How complaints are recorded 
  • What team deals with complaints 
    • This may be your human resources team or an individual in particular 
  • The timeline from when a complaint is received to when an outcome is reached 
  • Potential arrangements that may be made to investigate the complaint 
    • This may include having  the customer provide evidence of their dissatisfaction with your business’s product or service. 

3. Provide Potential Solutions For Complaints

Providing common solutions offered can help establish transparency and trust in the complaint handling process. 

Circling back to the UberEats example, this may include a refund if the order was never delivered. 

4. Reiterate Your Commitment To Continuous Improvement 

It is vital that your Complaints Handling Policy reassures the customer of your business’s commitment to continuously improving its products, services and operations. 

This way, your customers confidence in your business and its complaint handling will be reassured whilst awaiting an outcome in relation to their complaint. 

This above list of things to consider when forming your Complaints Handling Policy is a non-exhaustive list. 

The NSW Ombudsman provides a detailed and useful Complaints Handling Policy for you and your business to consider here

What Else Should I Consider When A Complaint Has Been Made?

1. Listen To The Complaint 

It is understandable that the last thing you want to be doing is listening to a customer complain about your business. 

However, listening thoroughly to a customer when a complaint is being made will ensure that you get all of the facts straight and the complaint is dealt with in a fair, efficient and effective manner. 

Listening to the complaint is one of the first actions you will take when a complaint is being made and perhaps one of the most important. Without having the facts straight, you will be unable to adequately deal with the complaint and potentially place your business’s reputation at risk. 

So, spread the word amongst your staff who deal with complaints – listen up! 

2. Be Efficient 

When your business has received a complaint it is important that you stick to your aim of dealing with it in a timely and cost-effective manner. 

This means dealing with the complaint when it is made as opposed to putting it off in a hope that it will miraculously disappear. 

The quicker that you deal with the complaint, the more confidence your customers will have in your business’s administrative processes and commitment to continuously improving its products, services and staff.  

3. Stick To Your Promises 

When a complaint is made against your business it is important that you only guarantee solutions that you can guarantee will occur. 

When you receive a complaint, the first thing you want to do is make it better as quickly as possible. This is why you may start making promises to the customer that can’t necessarily be met.

However, it is really important that you don’t do this and rather refer to your Complaint Handling Policy to achieve the best outcome. 

Further, if you have proposed a solution to a complaint that has been made, it is absolutely necessary that you deliver on this solution if it is accepted by the customer. 

If there happens to be any delays, hiccups or issues with providing a solution you have promised to a customer, it is important you remain transparent and communicate this to the customer efficiently. 

4. Follow Up 

Once you have provided a solution to a complaint that has been made about your business, it is a really good idea to follow up with the customer. 

Following up with the customer will help ensure: 

  • That they were satisfied with the solution provided 
  • Further display your business’s commitment to continuous improvement  
  • Encourage a positive and ongoing relationship with that customer

The above list is a non-exhaustive list of things to consider when dealing with a complaint made about your business. It is however a starting point and something you should deeply consider when dealing with a complaint. 

Need More Help? 

Receiving a complaint about your business is not the end of the world. It is however vital that you have the correct policies in place to ensure a fair, efficient and effective complaint handling process. 

Establishing an effective Complaint Handling Policy can be a bit tricky. Whether you form your own or require help from the start, it is always a good idea to get a lawyer involved when establishing your Complaint Handling Policy. 

Reach out to our team for a free, no-obligations chat at team@sprintlaw.com.au or 1800 730 617.

About Sprintlaw

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