Consumer Complaints Management Summary
- 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
As part of their efforts to decrease the likelihood of consumer problems arising, and to respond effectively when complaints and difficulties do occur, businesses employ a wide range of consumer complaints management (CCM) techniques. In addition to addressing the immediate problems of individual consumers, firms may develop Consumer Complaints Management initiatives in response to competitive pressures, to obtain feedback on how to improve products and services, and to reduce the likelihood of government having to intervene to solve a problem. Consumer Complaints Management initiatives are applied by businesses, and are not required by law. They may be developed by single firms, or created for and applied by many firms.
Who Should Read the Guide
The objective of the Guide is to assist businesses and industry associations contemplating Consumer Complaints Management initiatives, and those that have initiatives in place but wish to consider ways of improving them. It is recognized that readers may already be familiar with various aspects of Consumer Complaints Management, and that some parts of the Guide may be more relevant to some audiences than others.
Organization of the Guide
The Guide first discusses what Consumer Complaints Management initiatives are, the business case for Consumer Complaints Management, examples, and the strengths and weaknesses of Consumer Complaints Management, and then provides suggestions for their effective development and implementation.
Types of Consumer Complaints Management
Consumer complaints management takes many forms, from preventive to internal complaints-handling, external dispute resolution and comprehensive approaches.
Preventive Consumer Complaints Management initiatives help build and maintain relationships by reducing the chances that problems will arise in the first place and lead to complaints. Initiatives include educational activities directed at both consumers and businesses, improvements in the design of products and services, customer service guarantees and policies, and codes that set out service commitments and consequences for failure to meet those commitments.
Internal complaints-handling initiatives are techniques employed within a firm to address problems, complaints and conflicts. Examples include toll-free complaints assistance and in-house customer service representatives, published returns policies, ombudsmen and adherence to complaints-handling standards.
External private dispute resolution techniques are used when complaints cannot be adequately handled within the firm. Although there may be legal implications flowing from the use of such techniques, they operate outside the public court system. Examples include industry association ombudsmen, third-party mediation, arbitration, and private tribunals and councils.
Comprehensive Consumer Complaints Management initiatives combine preventive, internal complaints handling and external dispute resolution elements to provide a graded range of responses.
Consumer Complaints Management Implementation
The Guide sets out an eight-step process for creating and implementing Consumer Complainst Management initiatives, from problem definition through to publication, review and continual improvement. A summary checklist of elements of successful consumer Complaints Management initiatives is included. A number of tips and suggestions are provided, including the following:
- be flexible and adopt an incremental approach
- draw on existing institutional structures
- provide a range of options
- draw on the credibility and expertise of consumer organizations
- hire the right people to do the job
- draw on existing standards, criteria and benchmarks, when available.
Successful Consumer Complaints Management
Research suggests that effective Consumer Complaints Management initiatives are highly visible, transparent, accessible, easy to use and affordable. The initiatives typically have the explicit commitment of employees at all levels of the organization. Successful programs operate quickly, provide a regular flow of information to the people involved, ensure privacy and security, and include incentives for compliance and disincentives for non-compliance. Effective implementation depends on adequate financing, a good communications plan, regular review, consistent, fair treatment, and open and transparent processes.
More Information on Consumer Complaints Management
The Guide is intended as a primer, a stimulus for action. It cannot possibly answer all of the questions that arise in various circumstances. For those interested in exploring Consumer Complaints Management matters in greater depth, a list of useful publications is provided at the end of the Guide.
- Market-based Consumer Complaints Handling Initiatives
- Preventive Consumer 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 Consumer Complaint Handling Initiatives
- Consumer Complaint Handling Initiatives and the Law
- Developing and Implementing Complaint Handling Initiatives
- Elements of Successful Consumer Complaint Handling Initiatives
- Where Can I Get More Help?