- 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
The government-industry-customer Working Group on Electronic Commerce and Customers, spearheaded by Industry Canada’s Office of Customer Affairs, developed the Principles of Customer Protection for Electronic Commerce. The principles address information disclosure, personal information protection, contract formation and fulfillment, delivery and redress, among other things. Businesses that adhere to the principles are less likely to have problems that will result in customer complaints. Principle 5 specifically pertains to redress, stipulating that “customers should have access to fair, timely, effective and affordable means for resolving problems with any transaction.”
Online redress mechanisms are another way of addressing complaints about purchases made both online and in the conventional offline marketplace. There are opportunities and challenges associated with developing effective online redress initiatives (see box, opposite). Individual merchants can develop internal online complaints-handling systems, and then supplement them with external online redress systems.
When developing online redress programs, organizations should keep the following points in mind.
- Online redress offers opportunities for faster communications, secure negotiations and unmediated computerized assistance.
- Computer software can be used to enhance the redress process.
- Online mediators need to be skilful in written communications and distance negotiation, not just verbal interaction.
- There is no ability online to physically inspect goods, and it may be difficult to generate the same type of cooperative atmosphere as is possible in face-to-face mediation.
- It is difficult to authenticate the identity of the parties, confidentiality (when necessary) may be difficult to protect, and evidence difficult to submit. Such challenges must be met without compromising accessibility of customers.
- Online redress providers should be prepared for a sudden increase in the volume of requests every time they improve online accessibility.
Online Redress: Opportunities and Challenges
Online redress offers firms a number of opportunities for enhanced redress-related communications with customers,when compared with traditional redress mechanisms, including the following:
- potential for faster and more efficient communications
- less emotionally fuelled than face-to-face meetings
- less intimidating
- more of a level playing field for parties, since they have equal presence
- an automatic record of proceedings, which facilitates tracking of progress
- ability to easily publicize non-compliance
- potential for innovative uses of technology to improve redress mechanisms (e.g. automatic translation, real-time conferencing and computer-assisted negotiation).
In addition to these opportunities for enhanced communications, online redress presents a number of significant challenges, including the following:
- no visual or verbal cues to assess credibility of parties
- less than 100 percent reliability of e-mail as means of communication
- electronic system only works when both parties have compatible equipment and there are trained and capable personnel responding promptly to complaints
- less pressure to settle online than there is in a face-to-face meeting
- difficult to accommodate customers with poor literacy skills or who do not have access to e-mail
- challenges accommodating linguistic and cultural differences between parties
- need to ensure the security of confidential communications and documents
- need to devise simple methods of authenticating parties’ identities
- publicity can attract huge volumes of complaints, leading to a need to filter out unworthy complaints
- need to offer high-quality service at affordable rates to customers, without compromising independence.
While online redress mechanisms may be part of Trustmark systems, they need not be. A number of online redress programs stand alone, used by any number of merchants and their customers, whether or not those merchants participate in more comprehensive Trustmark programs. For example, one company provides a stand-alone program (one of several redress-oriented services offered by the company).When businesses cannot resolve a problem internally, they can turn to this company’s online mediation service, which features trained and qualified mediators. The company reports that it successfully resolves more than 80 percent of its online cases. Large commercial ventures with high profiles may be particularly good candidates for the services of stand-alone redress programs as a complement to their own internal complaints prevention and handling initiatives.
- Market-based Customer Complaints Handling Initiatives
- Preventive Customer Complaint Handling Initiatives
- Internal Complaints Handling Initiatives
- External Private Dispute Resolution Initiatives
- Comprehensive Complaints Handling Systems
- Characteristics of Effective Online Trustmark Programs
- Online Redress
- The Need for Effective Customer Complaint Handling Initiatives
- Customer Complaint Handling Initiatives and the Law
- Developing and Implementing Complaint Handling Initiatives
- Elements of Successful Customer Complaint Handling Initiatives
- Where Can I Get More Help?