(See also handling difficult customers.)
A while ago I was asked for any ideas I had on a complaints procedure from a customer whose business is the management & provision of a support service – providing a helpdesk/service desk service for external clients. I’ve chosen this as my subject for this post because it fits in nicely with the service level management posts I’ve been writing recently. Most of what follows is just as applicable to bother internal and external providers of support services, but my guess is that those who provide paid support services will be the most likely to implement a complaints procedure.
Complaints procedures are useful things to have because of their ability to avoid disputes, and to maintain or repair what might otherwise be a damaged customer relationship.
From a customers point of view, a complaints procedure will have more credibility when it is advertised, is simple, is confirmed in writing, has a few key timelines on it, and is considered by people who are (ideally) at arms length from the staff the customer usually deals with.
Let’s look at each of these in turn.
Advertising. Advertising (or making visible) a complaints procedure is important, and should describe the basics of how to raise a complaint, and how it will be considered. Good places to put such information might be your IT customer services portal (integrated with your SerioWeb pages if you are a Serio customer). Avoid a long description of your complaints handling procedure – focus on how and where, and what the timescales for resolution are.
Confirmation. Make sure you confirm the nature of the complaint, and agree it with the customer in writing particularly if it has been reported by telephone. Some organisations only take written complaints to avoid any confusion.
Timelines. Have a target response time for complaints (be careful to avoid the term ‘resolution’ – it can take much longer than your initial response). Ideally this will be 5 working days of less.
Fairness. Make it clear who will be investigating the complaint – ideally someone a little removed from your normal IT helpdesk/service desk. Your Service Level Manager might be a good choice.
Referencing to a trade body for arbitration. Although commonplace in the building and other sectors, paid IT support doesn’t seem to have much in the way of specialist arbitrators (correct me if I'm wrong though). However, here in the UK arbitrators.org may be able to help.
On the administrative side, it’s essential you have a clearly defined way of recording complaints – so you can report on the number of complaints received as a service level metric. For Serio users, that typically means having an Issue Type of Complaint and having (usually) a special SLA that is used (with the response time set accordingly).