Get Customer Complaint Details

An effective organization requires a robust customer complaint system. Complaints communicate customer perceptions of quality, and  compose the largest determinant of customer satisfaction. Unfortunately, the majority of complaint systems are completely reactive: You’re not reaching out to your customer—you’re relying on the customer to reach out to you. This is a risk laden proposition and for every complaint your organization receives, there may be four, five or more you’ll never know about.

Because of its reactive nature, a complaint system should be used in combination with one or two proactive tools. Here are some suggestions to help you implement an effective system that is capable of improving your customer satisfaction connection.

Get the Details!

In addition to your customer service personnel expressing empathy, the person receiving the complaint must gather the correct details. Exactly what went wrong? Allow the customer to provide a general description, then begin to drill down. Typical information includes the following details:

  • What was the exact nature of the problem? Generalities won’t cut it. The problem statement must provide enough detail and depth to facilitate investigation.
  • When did the problem occur? The date is certainly necessary, as might also be the time.
  • Where did the problem occur? The state, city, plant, retail outlet, department, production line and machine all might be important.
  • Who was involved in the situation? What roles did they play?
  • What product was involved? What were the part or style numbers?
  • Were there any specific batch numbers, serial numbers or other identifiers that provide traceability?
  • Was the problem isolated or generalized across all products?

Consistently gathering this expansion of information is difficult without a structured format. Most organizations custom-design complaint forms based on their individual needs and the most effective forms allow customers to go online and submit.  Decide exactly what information you need to investigate customer complaints and take effective corrective action; then design your form around these needs. Certain sections of the complaint form are almost universal, including:

  • The person to whom the complaint is assigned
  • The response due date
  • The root cause
  • The action taken
  • A verification of action taken
  • A closure signature and date

Also, consider all the steps that constitute a response to a typical customer complaint:

1.  Clearly defining the problem
2.  Identifying the root cause
3.  Proposing a range of acceptable corrective action
4.  Choosing the action
5.  Implementing the action
6.  Following up to ensure the action was effective
7.  Reporting the action and results back to the customer
8.  Updating procedures and other documentation as necessary to reflect changed methods.

The more people involved in the complaint investigation, action and follow-up, the more likely it is the organization will learn from the experience and not repeat the same mistakes.

The Quality Guru Asks: How effective is your organization in gathering the right customer information? Give us your ideas on what are the  proper complaint questions to ask to get the right details?   

Comments are closed.