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Building complaint response into an efficient quality management system

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Hearing complaints is dreaded by any organization, but it can be a deeper issue for the regulated sector. The truth is that addressing complaints is an opportunity for improvement if they are managed positively. 

Any organization which relies on quality control to sustain their relationships needs to have an effective complaints strategy in place. Clear procedures to govern these relationships will ensure that employees and managers inside your organization know what to do when a complaint is made. 

Companies whose continued existence depends on meeting regulations and standards face the most pressure when complaints are made. Irregularities within the product or processes must be addressed immediately.

Here are 8 tips to build complaint response into an efficient quality management system:

  1. Track Complaints—Tracking issues for analysis within your organization is a good way to assess where you need to be. Depending on the size of your business, tracking software can play a key role in complaints management and quality assurance. Find a way to integrate complaint tracking with the quality management systems already in place. 
  2. Reward Employees Who Succeed At Handling Complaints—Remember that it feels uncomfortable for your employees to log complaints. They may think it reflects negatively upon themselves or their work. Foster an environment of openness and transparency when dealing with complaints. This will normalize the actions of handling and reporting until employees accept complaint management as simply another step in quality assurance. Rewarding employees who do a spectacular job in handling a complaint or saving a client relationship is one way to reinforce these ideas.
  3. Keep Communication Channels With Employees Open—Employees are sometimes the first to notice deviations and irregularities in a product. If they are empowered to speak up, they can be your organization’s “first line of defence.” Companies that address employee observations and complaints also have higher retention rates.
  4. Address Issues Quickly— When regulations and the need to meet ISO norms inform your ability to do business, the way that your organization owns up to mistakes will be under scrutiny. If your business is in the wrong, apologize and provide alternative solutions. Taking action quickly will reinforce the belief that you are caring and willing to meet the client’s needs.
  5. Make it Easy to Report Complaints Directly—It feels counterintuitive to encourage the reporting of complaints, but focusing on ease and transparency is one of the biggest steps you can take to protect and maintain your company’s reputation. 
  6. Develop A Clear Process For Handling Complaints—There should be clear channels available to everyone who handles complaints within your organization. This will make the process faster and more straightforward. Some leaders try to implement industry-wide standards for complaints management. For example, the healthcare system in Australia has a nationwide Health Complaints Commissioner's Office dedicated completely to handing complaints in their sector, with online portals people can report through with ease. You can view their complaints management strategies here.
  7. Develop Proactive Management Practices—Proactive management strategies will help lessen the impact and overall number of future complaints. 
  8. Keep On Top Of Reviews And Mentions—Awareness of company presence online and in social media spheres will alert you to deviations and non-conformities in your products. Awareness is the first step to fixing problems before they grow bigger. 

Learning from each complaint is an opportunity for growth. By finding ways to address current complaints, you will be able to initiate continuous improvements within your organization. Viewing complaints as problematic robs your organization of chances to improve. By shifting this perception, you can continue to develop the services you offer to clients, and can really thrive in the field. Hopefully these guidelines help you view complaints as the drivers of change.