What is customer complaint?

customer complaint handling

Customer complaint is a negative feedback report from your customer, regarding the product or the service which delivered or supposed to be delivered to the customer according to customer expectations, and not limited to the agreement.

Depending on the type of your business, whither it is manufacturing, B2B, retail, service provider, customer handling methodology will vary.

The ingredients for the customer complaints management system CCMS are

1- Feedback channels

2- Complaints log / database

3- Complaints management responsible

4- Internal communications system

5- Written process

6- Customer confirmation for problem solving

Feedback channels- customer voice

customer complaints procedure 6

Manufacturing firms & B2B business normally have very few customer compared to retail business, and must probably owners / account managers or plant managers take care of their customer by themselves, however it is a good idea to define the feedback channels to receive complaints.

Customer in this case, among others, is the one who receives the goods or inspect goods before storing it inside warehouse; purchasing department, supply chain department, they are another employees at the customer side. From your side most probably the one who is dealing directly with the customer is sales department, your final goods warehouse, delivery teams

Sales team from your company will have strong ties with the customer’s purchasing department, this situation force both sides to solve any issue very quick and without announcing, It is really big challenge to make them follow any system of recording complaint, anyways you have to offer the channel , e.g. email, web, contact number, FAX, etc..

Retail business could have millions of customers, and needs as much open channels as he can.

Customer cans complaint while he is testing his product, or receiving his service. In this case the feedback will be immediate, provider has to act immediate. Chance to record the complaint is very weak. Still you can install “recommendation box” or “recommendation touch screen” at customer area so the customer will have suitable way to file the complaint.

Popular feedback channels

  • Website
  • Email
  • Phone
  • Mail address
  • FAX
  • Contact center
  • Social Media, e.g. FB
  • front-liner
  • Point of sale
  • delivery agent

All of the above channels are categorized under “inbound”, yet the need of approaching more customers still unsatisfied. You have to approach your customer; don’t wait until he approaches you. Use customer satisfaction survey to make sure that your customers don’t have issues. To do that, you have to install “alert signal” to know whenever a product or a service has been delivered to the customer; then you can call the customer and ask him if he has a complaint or not. According the size and the number of your customers, you may decide to call 100% of the customers or just take a good sample out of them.

Complaint log layout and the database

document 1

Layout of the complaint log is crucial to the whole system; these fields must be included in the log for each complaint, it the heart of the system as it will derive the process flow.

  • Complaint date
  • Receiver information
  • Customer information
  • Product / service information
  • Customer complaint as per customer statement without any modification
  • Accountable for the complaint
  • Complaint classification from organization point of view
  • Fast action taken to resolve the incident, and its due date
  • Customer confirmation on the complaint resolution
  • Root cause of the problem
  • Corrective action to prevent the complaint from repeating again in the future, and its due date.
  • Corrective action confirmation

Corrective action part is the key factor for the continuous improvement; you must use it otherwise you will keep doing the same mistakes forever.

To get the root cause, you may need one of the quality tools, e.g. fish boon analysis.

Corrective action must attack the root cause, not the complaint.

Customer confirmation on the solution must be done by independent party, or automated system.

By having these information in place, you will be able to have an excellent picture for you performance level is and how your organization is doing to solve customer complaints, as well as a good database about your complaints and how did you solve it.

Organization history will remain for new employees, and you will be less dependent on human factors.

Complaints management responsible

To keep things running, complaint management accountable person should be available, in the ISO certified organization; customer representative can play this rule.

The rule for the CMR is to follow up the complaint process cycle, from logging the complaints on the system until confirming the solution with the customer and to escalate the risks to the top management.

Internal communications system

To make sure that the feedback and messages are delivered correctly to the concerned departments / persons, you need to install suitable internal communication system.

The ultimate solution for internal communication is to have IT application for that purpose, it could be CRM customer relation management, or in house application developed by your IT department. I personally prefer to use one of the known CRM from Microsoft or Oracle, they built it based on very good practice worldwide. Also if you don’t have enough experience in the business, CRM will give you very good start point for process flow. The disadvantage off course will be the high cost of the CRM.

Also you can use emails, share-point , in case you can’t afford the high cost of IT solutions. The important thing here is that the responsible person should receive the information on time to enable him to do the right actions.

Customer complaints handling process flow


Use one of the tools to document the process flow. The objective of writing this document is to use it as a reference from the team, secondly to use it as a training material for the new hired staff. This will help to guarantee standardization and to build the experience.

Flow charts, SIPOC (supplier-input-process-output-customer), are good methods to describe customer handling process flow.

One important tip is to involve working staff in writhing the process, this will insure high commitment to the process from�their side.

During establishing the document, write down all details as much as you can, and make sure to answer the following questions:

  • When to do the action
  • Who should do the action
  • How to do the action
  • What is the action
  • Where to do the action

In the same time, enough room for creativity and freedom must be encouraged.