Complaints Handling Procedure (Small Business)
This Complaints Handling Procedure (Small Business) is designed for use by a small business with at least one level of staff below management. Two levels of complaint are provided for, the second of which is designed as an appeal stage for those customers who are not satisfied with the initial outcome of a complaint.
While it should always be the aim of every organisation to ensure that no customer has a cause for complaint, mistakes – innocent or otherwise – and difficult customers are a reality in most cases. Having a complaints policy and complaints handling procedure in place not only helps to ensure the efficient and effective handling of complaints but also shows your commitment to providing (and improving) high quality service to your customers.
This template is designed primarily for internal use within a business, alongside a customer-facing complaints policy. The policy (available through the related document links) explains your complaints handling procedure to customers in clear, simple terms and, while less detailed, mirrors each stage in the procedure. This procedure template itself uses more formal language and is designed to guide staff through the handling of a complaint.
The document begins by defining a complaint, thus helping to ensure that non-complaint matters (such as general queries or issues dealt with by other policies or contracts – the return or exchange of goods, for example) are dealt with appropriately. Instructions for the receipt and recording of complaints follow. The steps to be taken to log or record complaints have been left open in this template in order to accommodate a range of different approaches likely to be taken by different businesses. As much detail as is reasonably possible should be provided here.
Details of the information that should be expected to accompany a complaint are provided, mirroring the required information in the complaints policy, thus ensuring that those handling complaints know what to expect and what to ask for if something is missing.
Complaint levels are explained prior to detailed sections governing the handling of complaints. Complaints should initially be dealt with at “Level One” by staff members working at an appropriate level within the business. If a customer is unhappy with the Level One outcome, they may appeal to “Level Two” at which point the complaint should be handled by more senior employees. The levels at which such staff work are also left open for the end user to define.
A number of options are incorporated within the procedures for handling complaints. Some businesses may, for example, impose restrictions on the types of information which is available to lower levels of staff – thus requiring authorisation in the event that such information is needed during the investigation of a complaint. A further important choice to be made is whether or not a decision made by a member of staff investigating a complaint requires approval from a superior prior to informing the customer and implementing the relevant action. Options have been included to this effect, including the choice between the superior’s decision being final in the event of a disagreement, or the complaint investigation being restarted by a different staff member.
The procedure is largely the same for both levels, however the second level is intended to be handled by more senior staff. An optional third level – External Resolution – is provided for those businesses that are members of, or in some way regulated by, another organisation which offers customers of its members or subjects some form of dispute or complaint resolution. Whilst the external level provisions do not expressly refer to an ombudsman, a suitable reference could be inserted at this point if there is an ombudsman relevant to your particular sector. Further provisions govern confidentiality and data protection – of vital importance when dealing with customer complaints.
Optional phrases / clauses are enclosed in square brackets. These should be read carefully and selected so as to be compatible with one another. Unused options should be removed from the document. Please note that certain cross-references in the text to other sections will not update automatically and must be updated manually if sections are added or removed.
This Complaints Handling Procedure (Small Business) contains the following sections:
1. Definitions and Interpretation
2. What this Complaints Handling Procedure Covers
3. Receipt and Recording of Complaints
4. Complaint Information
5. Complaint Levels
6. Level One Complaints
7. Level Two Complaints
8. Resolution Actions
[9. External Resolution]
10. Implementation of Resolution Actions
11. Recording of Resolution Actions
12. Confidentiality and Data Protection
13. Procedure Review and Responsibility
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