When it comes to handling complaints, how a company acts and responds can be the difference between boosts or knocks to their reputation. When dealing with the general public, it is par for the course that not everything will always go to plan. Receiving complaints is a natural part of any business, but how they are handled should not be under-estimated.
It is worth noting that a customer does not have to formally address their communication as an official complaint or request a formal response from the organisation for it to be considered a complaint. Where any communication is received (verbal or written) that points out an issue, it should always be handled in accordance with a company’s complaint handing procedures. Not least to prevent the issue from escalating; but also to record patterns and prevent reoccurences.
Complaint Handling Objectives
The objectives each company has with regard to handling a complaint will differ slightly. However, the main aims for investigating, handling and responding to a customer complaint are generally the same.
- Provide a fair complaints procedure which is clear and easy to use for anyone wishing to make a complaint.
- Ensure that the complaints procedure is fully accessible so that people know how to contact you to make a complaint.
- Ensure all employees are aware of the procedure, reporting lines and how to handle a complaint.
- Make sure all complaints are investigated fairly and in a timely manner.
- Understand any legal or regulatory timeframes or deadlines that apply to specific industries or business types.
- Gather information and record all complaints to improve handling and prevent reoccurences.
- Where applicable, ensure a Data Protection Officer (DPO) is involved in any complaints relating to personal data.
- Ensure all complainants are made aware of their rights.
- Reference any ombudsman or referral service the customer is entitled to contact should they be unhappy with a response.
Complaint Response Examples
It is useful to have template responses for each complaint stage so that a company has consistency and structure when responding to informal and formal complaints. This also helps any employee involved in the complaint process to maintain continuity.
In most cases, there will be stages for each response. These are usually time specific and can include (but are not limited to): –
- Informal Complaint Acknowledgment Response
- Formal Complaint Acknowledgement Response
- 4-Week Holding Letter
- 8-Week Holding Letter
- Final Response – Complaint Upheld
- Final Response – Complaint Rejected
There is no set template or requirements when responding to the different complaint stages. However, keeping the content relevant, jargon free and straightforward can help to prevent rising emotions and escalations. For those obligated under the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS), there are certain requirements for responses and letter inclusions which can be found on their website.
Complaint Acknowledgement Response Template
Below we have drafted an example of a response that can be used after a formal complaint has been received. Template contents should always be customised to suit the industry and business type. However, the can save time and resources when prepared ahead of time.
Complaint Procedure Template & Response Toolkit
If you are looking to upgrade or review your existing complaint handling program, we provide a market leading Complaint Handling Template set. Including a ready to use, but fully customisable complaints procedure template; complaint log; complaint handling checklist and 6 complaint response templates.