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Dealing with complaints against your business

The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) can give you information about your rights and responsibilities. We also have a conciliation service to help resolve disputes.

You should try to reduce customer complaints through:

  • excellent customer service
  • addressing complaints quickly and fairly.

Dealing with customer complaints

Develop an effective customer complaint policy by:

  • considering how well you currently handle complaints
  • involving your staff in developing a complaint handling system
  • deciding who will handle complaints
  • writing down your complaint handling procedure
  • making sure all staff are trained in your complaint handling procedure and your complaint resolution options
  • making a complaint form
  • displaying a sign saying you welcome genuine complaints about product quality or service
  • clearly advising customers where and how they can report problems
  • making sure your customers can report problems to you at any time
  • recording all problems and complaints
  • trialling the system and using customer and staff feedback to improve it over time.

There are Australian Standards for complaint handling and customer service which may be useful guides.

Managing complaints

To show that you clearly understand a customer’s complaint:

  • research the issue before you speak with them
  • check internal records
  • speak to staff and check how their version of events compares with the customer's.

When a customer has a genuine complaint:

  • speak to the customer in person—do not rely on written complaints or records of conversations
  • thank them for raising the matter
  • treat them with genuine empathy, courtesy, patience, honesty and fairness
  • try to respond to the complaint quickly
  • tell the customer how you will handle it and when to expect a response.

When you talk to the customer:

  • listen carefully
  • don’t jump to conclusions, lay blame or become defensive
  • ask questions to clarify the situation
  • summarise your understanding of the problem
  • tell the customer what will happen next.

Resolving complaints

  • Nominate 1 staff member to manage the complaint until it is resolved.
  • The nominated staff member should have the authority to organise solutions that the customer will accept—this could be a refund, replacement or a free service.
  • Adopt a solution-focused approach, actively involving the customer in the process.
  • When you find a solution, check the customer is happy with the approach.
  • Make sure you take all promised action as quickly as possible.
  • Tell the customer how you will stop the problem happening again.

More help

If you cannot successfully resolve a complaint yourself, you have other options.

Mediation

Mediation is a way to settle a dispute without taking legal action. It lets you and the other party meet with 2 neutral mediators who will help you discuss the dispute.

Mediation saves time and money. It helps people reach an agreement in 90% of cases.

You can get free mediation from a dispute resolution centre.