Customer Complaints| Can you turn that frown upside down?

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It is inevitable that if your business has customers then it will be required to deal with customer complaints from time to time.  Customer complaints can range from small concerns through to the more serious, such as claims of defective goods and services in breach of express warranties and/or the Australian Consumer Law (ACL). 

The way your business deals with a customer complaint through the initial stages will have a significant impact on whether the complaint can be resolved quickly and effectively, or if it will escalate.  It will also determine how much of your time you will spend dealing with a complaint or, alternatively, dealing with the consequences of your business failing to manage a complaint in accordance with its legal requirements. 

Not only may a customer complaint lead to potential legal proceedings or regulator investigations, which will be time and cost intensive, it may also have a detrimental impact on your reputation and brand.  This is particularly so with the extensive use of social media by unsatisfied customers. 

  Small complaints which are not dealt with quickly and transparently, may become more serious.  Nothing frustrates an already unhappy customer more than unreturned telephone calls/emails, promises which are not delivered or convoluted processes for dealing with their concerns.   The more serious complaints may require an assessment of your business’s position and obligations under certain laws, such as the ACL, at an early stage to determine the appropriate way to manage and resolve a complaint.  

Smart businesses should have a practical and effective customer complaint handling procedure tailored to their business.  The procedure should cover all steps from initial contact by the customer through to resolution.  It needs to consider your business’s commercial needs and its legal rights and obligations.  The process for dealing with complaints made against your business for breach of the ACL should be set out clearly. 

It’s not enough that you have a piece of paper headed “Complaints Handling Procedure” - it needs to be implemented to benefit and protect your business.  It should be clear and easy to understand, involve training for relevant employees and be monitored and regularly updated so that it is ultimately helping your business to manage and resolve customer complaints effectively and efficiently to ensure your business success.

TSM works with its clients to provide practical legal and commercial support for effectively and appropriately dealing with customer complaints.


Suzie Carroll