Create a robust and efficient complaints process and you’ll help both your customers and your business.

How to develop a good complaints policy

Don’t wait until complaints happen before creating a good policy for handling them. After all, that’s just good business sense.

Complaints can valuable source of data how your business is doing. Effective monitoring of complaints means you can sort out problems before they escalate, saving you time and money.

Where complaints are handled properly, a good system can improve your reputation and provide valuable customer goodwill.

An effective complaints process should aim to provide:

  • a user friendly system
  • staff who listen to customers and treat them with respect
  • a record of the complaint and the relevant facts
  • explanations and a sincere apology where appropriate
  • options to resolve the issue as soon as possible and preferably at the first point of contact unless the problem is complicated
  • clear delegations and procedures for staff to deal with complaints and provide remedies
  • a recording system to capture complaints data
  • the use of complaint data to identify problems and trends
  • an outcome of improved service delivery in identified areas.

What you need to know

Your trade or industry body is probably a good resource for helping you to develop a robust and efficient process that’s right for you. Nevertheless, any process you put in place should at least consider:

  • your legal obligations under the Consumer Guarantees Act (CGA) and the Fair Trading Act (FTA)
  • how important the problem is to the customer, eg in winter, customers will want their heaters fixed quickly
  • who is best able to handle complaints quickly, practically and efficiently, eg the manager, sales staff, supervisor or owner
  • putting in place ongoing staff training for anyone that has customer contact, eg receptionists and floor staff.

To let your customers know that you want to help them with their consumer problems, it’s also a good idea to:

  • provide a customer suggestion/feedback box at your business
  • carry out a survey with existing customers
  • prominently display a notice of your complaints handling policy
  • invite feedback from customers on how their complaint was handled.

Tip: The legal obligations for what you need to do for customers are the minimum requirement.
For example, the law says a customer is not entitled to a remedy when returning goods if they have simply changed their mind. But you may choose to have a policy that allows exchange, credit note or even a refund.

Tip: If possible, assign one staff member to handle a customer's complaint from start to finish and ensure the customer knows that person’s name and contact details.

Example of a customer complaint form

A basic customer complaint form might look like this.

Example of a customer complaint form for businesses to use.  

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