A good business tries to minimise customer complaints through excellent customer service, and address customer complaints about the business, or a product or service quickly and fairly.
We give consumers and businesses information about their rights and responsibilities, and provide a conciliation service to help resolve disputes.
Dealing with customer complaints
There are Australian Standards for complaint handling and customer service which may be useful guides. In developing an effective customer complaint policy, consider the following suggestions.
- Examine how effectively your business currently handles complaints.
- Involve your staff in developing a complaint handling system, and decide who will handle complaints.
- Anticipate common complaints and work out standard solutions.
- Write down your complaints handling procedure and prepare a standard complaint form.
- Ensure all staff are trained in the procedure and have the skills to resolve complaints.
- Display a sign saying your business welcomes genuine complaints about product quality or service.
- Clearly advise your customers where and how they can report problems.
- Ensure your customers can report problems to you at any time.
- Keep a record of all problems and complaints.
- Trial the system, and use customer and staff feedback to improve it over time.
When a customer has a genuine complaint, thank them for raising the matter with you. Treat them with genuine empathy, courtesy, patience, honesty and fairness.
Try to respond to the complaint quickly. Tell the customer how you will handle it and when to expect a response.
Speak to the customer in person. Do not rely on written complaints or records of conversations.
To show that you clearly understand their complaint:
- familiarise yourself with any background information before you speak to them, check internal records, speak to staff and check how their version of events compares with the customer's
- listen carefully and do not jump to conclusions, lay blame or become defensive
- ask questions to clarify the situation
- summarise back to the customer your understanding of the problem.
Once you take the complaint details, tell the customer what will happen next.
If possible, nominate one staff member to manage the complaint until it is resolved. Ensure that this staff member has the authority to organise solutions that the customer will accept.
Adopt a solution-focused approach by actively involving the customer in this process. Ensure you take all promised action as promptly as possible.
When you find a solution, tell the customer and check they are happy with the resolution. Tell them how you will prevent the problem arising again.
Other ways to resolve a complaint
If you cannot successfully resolve a complaint yourself, you have other options.
Mediation is a way to settle a dispute without taking legal action. It enables you and the other party to meet with two neutral mediators who will help you discuss the dispute.
Mediation saves time and money, and successfully helps people reach an agreement in 90 per cent of cases.
For more information on mediation, contact the Department of Justice and Attorney-General's Dispute Resolution Branch.
Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal
In some circumstances, you may need to lodge a claim with the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal. Generally, the Tribunal is concerned with disputes between consumers and traders. For more information, visit the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal.
Last reviewed 01/12/2011