Comprehensive Complaints Management Systems
- Service & Complaints Guides
- A Practical Guide to Handling Consumer Complaints
- Best Practices in Handling Customer Complaints
- A Guide for Consumer Complaints Management
- 6 Steps to Achieve Customer Service Excellence
Complaints prevention, internal complaints handling and external dispute resolution operate on a continuum. Typically, there is increased attention to formality and rules of procedure the further one proceeds from complaints prevention to external dispute resolution. There is no single “right” approach to Consumer Complaints Management initiatives, as the proper approach depends on the type of product or service in question, the character of the consumers, the distinctive characteristics of the industry sector, the size and sophistication of the merchant, the existence of an effective merchant association, the expense of the Consumer Complaints Management mechanism, and the extent and nature of regulatory oversight. In some cases, a combination of approaches may be adopted. When a firm or sector adopts an approach that integrates all three components, this is considered to be a comprehensive Consumer Complaints Management system.
Examples of Comprehensive Complaints Management Systems
The Cable Television Standards Foundation operates a comprehensive complaints management system with the cooperation of its members. The system includes preventive aspects such as customer service standards, site visits to ensure compliance, a structured complaints process with time limits for each member company, informal mediation by Cable Television Standards Council staff, formal adjudication by a three-person panel, publication of Council decisions, and a random callback policy to ensure that consumers are satisfied. Members that do not adhere to the standards may have their membership revoked.
The Better Business Bureau (BBB) operates a comprehensive complaints management system in conjunction with and on behalf of its members. Its system includes preventive aspects such as reliability reports and consumer alerts, referral of complaints back to companies for internal complaints handling, and a wide range of external dispute resolution processes. Members may have their membership (and their right to display the BBB logo in their promotional material) revoked when they fail to comply with BBB requirements.
Consumer Complaints Management Initiatives and Electronic Commerce
The increased ability of consumers to use the Internet to search for and purchase goods and services from merchants located anywhere in the world presents many potential advantages to consumers: enhanced convenience, increased access to information about products and services, improved choice and lower prices. This potential can also benefit merchants. In particular, small and medium-sized businesses may be able to substantially expand their markets using electronic commerce, unencumbered by expensive activities associated with building and operating new retail facilities.
However, buying a good or service online differs considerably from buying something at a bricks and mortar establishment. Instead of being able to see, touch and feel what they wish to buy, online consumers are more dependent on technology-based substitutes to decide about the appropriateness of the product or service and the reliability of the merchant. When dealing with online merchants, consumers must pay increased attention to many things:
- product and service characteristics and key safety issues
- delivery and return policies
- what consumer information the merchant gathers, how the merchant uses it and when, and whether it is disclosed to third parties
- safeguards to ensure that consumer information is securely held
- concerns about the security of the transaction
- currency, customs and tax issues
- concerns about whether the products asked for will arrive on time and intact
- techniques for dealing with consumer concerns should problems arise.
In addition, there is the added complication of determining what laws apply to a particular transaction, and how to enforce those laws across multiple jurisdictions. For all of these reasons, consumers have consistently expressed reservations about buying things online.
Businesses, governments, consumer organizations, standards organizations and others are all trying to solve problems associated with online shopping — using preventive approaches, as well as internal complaints handling and external dispute resolution techniques.
Complaints prevention techniques for electronic commerce include using voluntary codes in conjunction with seals or logos (called Trustmark programs) to signal merchant reliability. As part of the codes, merchants make commitments about information disclosure and protection, contract formation, delivery and return policies, and provision of internal complaints-handling and external redress programs. Standalone online redress services may also be part of Trustmark programs.
Trustmark programs may be particularly useful for small and medium sized enterprises with comparatively low consumer profiles that are seeking entry into new consumer markets. More established firms may rely to a greater extent on their pre-existing brand image and reputation, since this may provide sufficient indication of reliability to consumers.
Redress mechanisms associated with Trustmark programs typically include complaints-handling and money-back guarantee services, and third-party mediation and dispute resolution initiatives. When properly designed and administered, Trustmark programs can enhance the effectiveness of consumer redress.
- Market-based Consumer Complaints Management Initiatives
- Preventive Consumer Complaint Management Initiatives
- Internal Complaints-handling Initiatives
- External Private Dispute Resolution Initiatives
- Comprehensive Complaints Management Systems
- Characteristics of Effective Online Trustmark Programs
- Online Redress
- The Need for Effective Consumer Complaint Management Initiatives
- Consumer Complaint Management Initiatives and the Law
- Developing and Implementing Consumer Complaint Management Initiatives
- Elements of Successful Consumer Complaint Management Initiatives
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