Complaint Management

Learn all there is to know about complaint management, the components that make up a standard complaint management process, and the associated best practices.

Issac Thomas
May 19, 2022
13 min read

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Table of Contents

What is complaint management?

According to Forbes, 63% of customers will leave a company after just one poor experience and nearly two-thirds will not wait more than two minutes for assistance. Complaint management focuses on resolving customer grievances, identifying areas for improvement, and developing better products or services. No organization wants to receive complaints about poor customer service, but even the best brands will occasionally receive a negative customer review.

Handling complaints is part and parcel of customer service operations. That's why your support agents are vital, as addressing customer complaints about products or the quality of customer service is tricky even for the most experienced contact center agents. That’s also why a complaint management process is vital to both a customer support and customer service department’s success.

Why is customer complaint management important?

Complaints management is an essential component of customer service and business success. Not only is it the means to gather valuable customer insight, but it also helps your company progress and make improvements — leading to reduced costs, increased profitability, and increased customer satisfaction.

Effective complaint management helps you gather customer insights which in turn impacts these five areas:

Customer feedback

Collecting customer feedback helps you determine areas of improvement. Understanding their pain points and improving on these aspects helps you to build better customer experiences.

Learn more: 3 Customer Experience Lessons from Brands Who Show They Truly Care

Customer experience

Customer complaints, when handled well, lead to positive leaps in your customer service and offerings. Use them to gather insights on improving your products and services. Track customer feedback, analyze it, and create strategies to resolve issues that arise — and keep your customers in the loop.

Customer satisfaction (CSAT)

Effective complaint management leads to a steep increase in your CSAT scores. Monitoring customer feedback across different channels will give you a clear insight into how they perceive your offerings. The sooner you resolve customer complaints, the sooner you turn their negative feedback into positive experiences.

Learn more: Survey says… it’s time to move to predictive CSAT

Customer relationships

When you listen to your customers and take their complaints seriously, it enhances your reputation as a brand — and people love working with companies with a great brand image. Efficient complaint management helps you retain your customers. Remember: customer retention is the new customer acquisition.

Learn more: How To Turn Your Customers Into A Community Of Brand Advocates

Customer loyalty and advocacy

Customer loyalty is earned when you deliver them value consistently and don’t abandon them in times of need. Effective complaint management builds your credibility as a brand and your loyal customers become your brand advocates.

The Future of Customer Care is Digital

Common types of customer complaints

Before we understand the complaint management process, let’s first get familiar with the kinds of complaints.

1. Prolonged wait times

Average hold time (AHT) is one of the most critical customer service metrics. When customers call you, they don’t like to be kept waiting. Two out of three customers will not wait more than two minutes for assistance.

As per numerous studies, customers will hang up a call after two minutes, and more than 30% do not call back.

What does this mean for your business? You can lose a third of your customer base if your agents don’t attend to customer calls fast enough.

Learn more: Press none for great customer experience

2. Incessant call transfers

When a customer calls you, they want their problem resolved as soon as possible. They would prefer to work with one knowledgeable agent instead of being transferred from agent to agent with no end or resolution. Moreover, customers hate repeating their information to multiple agents, which is not only frustrating but also time-consuming.

3. Service or product unavailability

It’s a good sign when a product goes out of stock — but not if it stays out of stock. Neither is it good for your business when a particular service is not working or a customer has certain issues with the product. Customers may become impatient and repeatedly ask for updates or demand to be notified about the whereabouts of their order. Since it becomes a time-sensitive issue, it is tough to manage the customers’ expectations, from when they place the order until the product reaches their doorstep and up until the time they use it.

4. Automated calls

Customers prefer self-service over talking to an agent, but companies need the right Conversational AI and Bots to power automated systems and create better experiences to resolve customer cases.

More than 65% of customers have hung up their phones out of frustration of not getting to speak to a human agent. And the chances are high that these customers would give up on you and take their business elsewhere. Think about it — in times of distress, who would want to hear a robotic voice spout out a bunch of instructions?

Conversational AI is a cost-effective alternative to agent-assisted conversations. It analyzes customer messages in real time to understand intent, context, and sentiment — then uses AI chatbots to provide automated, human-sounding responses that reflect the conversation. This streamlines routine use cases (like order management, password resets, authentication, and payments), while also freeing up human agents to service more complex issues.

Learn more: How Conversational AI helps brands be human@scale

5. Unsatisfactory responses

Not understanding a customer’s problem is akin to not hearing them correctly. There is a reason why companies put their trust in support agents instead of relying on an automatic computerized system. That is why an agent should learn to gauge a customer's needs precisely. Even if they are inexperienced, they should avoid giving programmed responses, and their understanding of the products or services certainly helps in this regard.

6. Lack of omnichannel experience

Customers become unhappy and frustrated if they are not able to reach out to you through their preferred communication channels. In this digital era, there are multiple channels through which customers vent their frustrations. A customer tweeting about bad service is just as important as someone giving you their feedback over the phone.

Learn more: Why you need a unified contact center to keep up with customer expectations in 2022 and beyond

7. Poor or no self-service resources

The best customer service is no service. Customers will not raise complaints if they could resolve their problems on their own. You need to provide them with credible self-service resources like FAQ pages, communities, and bots, along with a dedicated section on your company website containing knowledge base or solution articles.

Did you know?
In the US, complaint management is standardized under ISO 10002:2018. You can find the exact info on duties or responsibilities, resources, and term definitions.

Customer complaint management in the digital age

As per research, customers view phone, in-person, live chat, and email as the most trustworthy engagement choices. SMS, social media giants like X, formerly Twitter, and public customer advocacy and complaint forums will continue to gain momentum as a choice for instant queries and complaints.

Modernize Your Contact Center in Less Than 10 Minutes

Complaint management process

Once you have a fair understanding of the types of customer complaints, make sure it is channeled through a proper complaint handling and management process.

An appropriate complaint management process should fulfill the following criteria:

  1. Customer-focused

  2. Transparent and traceable

  3. Easily accessible

  4. Responsive

  5. Confidential

  6. Accountable and reviewable

  7. Kaizen — a Japanese business philosophy of continuous improvement of working practices and personal efficiency

Apart from fulfilling these seven requirements, a good complaint management process should have these five components:

1. A well-defined customer complaint policy

The policy should include:

  • Definition of complaint

  • Methods and channels to receive complaints

  • A detailed brief of the complaint management process

  • Outline on prioritizing complaints

A well-defined customer complaint policy keeps everything in order. From the most experienced support agent to the recently hired one, they will have a standard procedure to follow. It will help all of your agents to prioritize complaints based on urgency. It also reduces the probability of missing out on recurring issues that could blow out of proportion.

2. Standardized complaint management process

Align your complaint management process to ensure everyone follows the same procedures for managing customer complaints. Utilizing a standard procedure provides clarity, improves compliance, and reduces quality risks.

Formulate the complaint process by understanding every aspect involving receiving, inspecting, and solving a complaint. Answer the following questions:

  • Is a timeline specified to resolve the complaint?

  • Do you have a database to store complaints, investigations, and resolutions?

  • Who will address the complaint? Who will fix it? Who will review it?

  • What kind of complaints should escalate to management?

Clear answers to these questions will give you defined parameters to set up a standard complaint management process.

Learn more: How to take control of your organization’s complaints and escalation management

3. Defining responsibilities

The success of a complaint management process partially depends on who handles the whole process. Your team should have a clear idea about who would be responsible for managing a complaint at different levels. So every time you review or create a complaint management process, answer these fundamental questions:

  • Who will collect and log the complaints?

  • Once reported, who all will get notified?

  • Will the complaints be department-specific?

  • Who will review the resolution of complaints and approve it?

  • Who will inform the upper management?

  • When should you escalate a complaint, and who will address it?

  • What should be the timeline for a complex complaint?

  • What will be the consequences of not handling complaints on time?

Answers to these questions depend on the hierarchy of your organization and your established approval process. Having clarity on these questions will set up a proper complaint management process with a minimal chance of missing complaints.

4. Training and development

A proper complaint management system should train, coach, and develop customer care agent skills. Ensuring agents respond to customer feedback, complaints, and queries on time with appropriate resolutions is essential. Even if they don't have a solution to a query or a complaint, they must know whom to get in touch with for timely resolutions — and all of it is possible if an agent has clear duties.

Learn more: Coaching Your Care Agents: Insights Learned From Global Brand Leaders

5. Tracking and reporting

Setting up a standardized protocol with defined rules and roles is essential to track, report, and review how your process is performing.

A proper tracking and reporting system will help identify errors more quickly. It will help improve processes and training programs to make the complaint management system more efficient.

Now that we know about the qualities and components of a standard complaint management process, let's see how your team can handle customer complaints effectively.

Also read: A complete guide for escalation management

Customer Care in 2022: Five predictions for the Unified Contact Center of Tomorrow

5-step process for handling customer complaints

To handle customer complaints effectively, you need to follow a 5-step process which inculcates empathy and using the right technology.

1. Listen and ask the right questions

Even the most basic complaints can have insights to improve your business. The kind of questions your agents ask will help you understand the friction levels and areas of improvement. Agents should carry the conversation forward by asking questions like:

  • Could you explain further?

  • Can you provide an example?

Determine in advance what information agents would need to gather from customers in order to address the complaint in a timely and efficient manner. Use customer feedback to resolve issues and anticipate areas that might require further attention.

If an agent is unable to deal with a particular customer complaint, make sure they are trained to transfer that complaint to the right agent. But let the customer know that they are being transferred to another agent and why.

Learn more: CX priorities in 2022: tips to provide a positive customer experience

2. Identify the type of complaint and customer

A recent study showed that different types of customers are motivated by different beliefs, attitudes, and needs. To master customer service, consider different customer profiles including:

  • Customers who confront you: don't mirror their behavior while talking to them; instead, be firm but polite.

  • Customers who pay a premium: don't give excuses to such customers and get straight to the solution.

  • Customers who call you frequently: don't get frustrated. Instead, be calm and respond to them politely. These customers have the potential to become brand advocates.

  • Customers who don't want to complain: these customers will take their business to your competitor with not so much as a hint that they are unhappy with you. Make extra efforts to reach out to them and address their concerns.

These are just a few simple examples. In reality, customers will show more complex sets of behaviors and motivations. Being aware of these different types will help you handle and resolve their issues better.

3. Respond quickly

One of the biggest luxuries in today’s modern world is convenience. Complaints that are resolved quickly give your customers a memorable experience and bring them closer to becoming a brand advocate.

Having a complaint management software gives you the liberty to prioritize complaints based on urgency. Transform manual processes like assigning a timeline to queries to automated workflows as per the conditions you set. And when it comes to reporting, SLA metrics measure agent response times against preset objectives to determine how they are performing.

Learn more: How customer service response times directly impact CSAT, retention, and revenue

4. Once a complaint is resolved, verify it

Once you present a solution to the customer, make sure it is working for them. Use the following statements to do so:

  • Add this line at the end of the communication, “Please let us know if there is anything else we can help you with. It would be our pleasure to further assist.”

  • Give them proof of the solution, “We have successfully tested the solution, and it is working as expected. A screenshot is attached for verification. If you are having trouble, please let us know.”

In some instances, getting in touch with the customer after a few days demonstrates a commitment to good service. Ask them to rate how effective you were in resolving their issue. Use negative or average feedback to improve processes.

5. Log the complaint in your database

Having a record of all the complaints you receive is good for your business. Suppose you have received similar complaints for the past six months from various customers. It means the issue needs your immediate attention.

Also, having a database of complaints helps you uncover trends and what your customers periodically want. Tracking complaints, identifying them, resolving them, and training your contact agents require time and resources.

What is complaint management software?

Complaint management software accepts, classifies, and tracks customer complaints from initiation to resolution. It acts as a platform where it converts complaints from different channels into tickets. While the complaint is addressed, the customer is kept in the loop of its progress. Also, a complaint management solution empowers agents to prioritize different complaints, alert their colleagues, allocate assets to solve complaints, and keep records of them for further understanding.

The Essential Guide to AI for Customer Service

Manage your customer complaints with Sprinklr’s AI-powered complaint management solution

Get a glimpse of what effective complaint management can do for your business. 90% of customers want fast responses to their queries, and most organizations fail to do so. With Sprinklr Service, you can.

It is a proactive customer service solution propelled by our proprietary AI engine built on the only unified customer experience management (Unified-CXM) platform. You can analyze complaints of your customers across multiple channels. Identify the intent and sentiment behind it before sharing it with the right agent.

A happy customer is an advocate of your brand. Focus on customer happiness and use Sprinklr Service to ensure you solve customer problems, with these features:

Give customer support across multiple channels

An unhappy customer will reach out to you through any channel available to them. Be proactive. With Sprinklr Service, you can track customer complaints across different channels and convert them into tickets.

You can provide customer support through one unified platform, be it social, messaging, chat, email, or voice conversation.

Manage all your customer support functions from one place

Deliver excellent customer experiences across different touchpoints with a user-friendly interface, making it simple to add new channels in just a few minutes. Empower your teams to connect with customers instantly and deliver consistent experiences through automated ticket queues. You can quickly set up new users, agents, and teams, matching them based on skills and experience. It, in turn, helps in connecting them to the right customer requests, thereby resulting in faster resolutions.

Optimize workflows with automation for quicker resolution

Save time by adding canned responses to frequently asked questions. Automate your workflows and make complaint management more effective. Prioritize, classify, and assign customer complaints to the right agents using Sprinklr Service — leading to faster resolution of issues.

Make faster, more informed decisions using rich insights

From getting a curated report to creating a customized one, Sprinklr Service reporting helps you map the overall perspective of your customers. Empower your agents so that they understand the customer better and offer them the best solutions. Additionally, leverage CSAT surveys to find out what your customers are looking for and craft a better experience for them.

With Sprinklr Service, you have the opportunity to convert your unhappy customers into your best advocates. Don’t miss it!

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