While organisations endeavor to make use of ‘customer insights’ to continuously bring value to customers and improve operations, the data they look towards and the way this data is analysed to make crucial changes doesn’t always help in making impactful operational decisions (McKinsey&Co, n.d.). Operations teams responsible for implementing valuable changes are also often isolated and removed from customers – making it difficult to contribute to new marketing strategies and respond quickly to changing customer climates (McKinsey&Co, n.d.).

Every business professional (and compassionate customer) understands that mistakes do happen but the necessity for establishing a well-functioning complaint management process to ensure good rapport with their clients even after they are unhappy with their purchase due to a manufacturing, provisioning, or delivery fault (IONOS, 2019). 


What is Complaint Management

Complaint Management

As companies grow, so do their number of critics. A complaint management process managed by a designated, upskilled team is crucial for organisations who deal with complaints by unsatisfied customers. Negative rapport in the era of the internet of things makes complaint management even more significant where complaints often reach countless readers. Complaint management deals with handling customer complaints in such a way as to create a positive impact for both the organisation and the customer while attempting to resolve the issue to strengthen customer loyalty and achieve quality assurance(IONOS, 2019).

Customer Complaint Behaviour

The process or journey of customer complaint behaviour begins when the customer has successfully evaluated a consumption episode. It ends once they have completed all their behavioural and non-behavioural responses of making the purchase which has resulted in the dissatisfaction. 

Customer complaint behaviour is prompted by a perceived dissatisfaction with a purchase ‘episode’. Different from criticism, the customer displays complaint behaviour when they firstly articulate their source of dissatisfaction and subjective judgement of feeling toward what triggered the dissatisfaction. The final outcome of the complaint behaviour ultimately lies in the customer’s subjective evaluation of the situation over time and how the complaint was handled (Singh, 1988).

Service failure 

According to Maxham (2001), service failure, from a customer’s perspective, is any real or perceived service-related problem that occurs during the customer’s encounter with an organisation. It motivates customer complaint behaviour where service expectations have not been met and is often a direct cause of customer dissatisfaction. Knowing how to appropriately deal with the inevitability of service failure could save you from losing a dissatisfied customer entirely.

Service Recovery

To restore customer satisfaction and meet service recovery expectations, an organisation must attempt to rectify and recover elements of the service delivery system which have failed. Online customers have different service recovery expectations when compared to those of offline customers – expecting responses within 1-2 days of an online complaint. 

While correcting the problem is one goal of service recovery, the system must also continuously monitor the entire service delivery system to efficiently identify and prevent future problems.

Complaint Management in South Africa

So, why are customers able to complain?

In contrast to pre-1994, today’s South African’s are encouraged (and expected) under ideals of Freedom of thought and speech, to complain when they do not receive the treatment and services they are entitled to.

Under the sponsorships of the Department and Trade Industry within government, The National Consumer Commission (NCC) was conceived to ensure economic welfare of consumers and to safeguard the growth and development of the country. The NCC exists in terms of the Consumer Protection Act 68 of 2008 which recognises 8 fundamental consumer rights, in line with the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa.

These rights in terms of the Consumer Protection Act, Act 68 of 2008 are (THENCC, 2020):

  1. The right to equality
  2. The right to privacy
  3. The right to choose
  4. The right to disclosure of information
  5. The right to fair and responsible marketing
  6. The right to a fair and honest dealing
  7. The right to fair, just and reasonable terms and conditions; and
  8. The right to safe and good quality goods

While the NCC provides its services free of charge, it is advisable to first raise a complaint with the business or provider of the goods and services causing dissatisfaction.).

Customer Management Complaint Process: What Are the Procedures?

Customer satisfaction and quality assurance are the two goals which complaint management aim to achieve within a series of tasks which aim to contribute towards a positive customer rapport. Only under certain framework conditions – which consider organisational structure, personnel and a functioning infrastructure, is it possible for complaint management tasks to be successfully mastered. Of course, in order to gather complaints effectively, procedures must be in place to obtain feedback, process complaints and handle them effectively in order to take necessary corrective action which will make for successful service recovery.

The Value of Customer Complaints

Ten Reasons Why Complaints can lead to better CX

Learning the value of customer complaints is an important step in taking your company to the next level.

It’s a fact… When things go wrong, customers will complain. But, if you know how to handle them, complaints can be turned into constructive opportunities for your team and your company to grow.

The value of customer complaints is tenfold (Kaufman, 2017):

  1. Identify vital areas for service improvement.
  2. identify needed improvement in policies and procedures.
  3. Improve customer communication.
  4. Keep senior management informed.
  5. Improve your service education.
  6. Fuel for an uplifting service culture.
  7. Find new business opportunities.
  8. Obtain Competitive Intelligence
  9. Better understand your customers.
  10. Build Customer Loyalty

Tips for Handling Customer Complaints

A few simple points may be all it takes to recover what may have been a lost client while also radically changing the way you do business.

Here are a few simple tips for your next complaint management process (Freifield, 2013):

  1. Stay calm. 
  2. Listen well. 
  3. Acknowledge the problem. 
  4. Get the facts. 
  5. Offer a solution. 

Handling Customer Complaints During a Crisis

With virtually every facet of life being impacted by COVID-19, the way that you communicate with your customers are likely to have changed as well. 

Studies have found that the following five key strategies help companies weather crises and preserve their bonds with consumers (Waldron & Wetherbe, 2020):

  • Humanise your company
  • Educate about change
  • Assure stability
  • Revolutionize offerings
  • Tackle the future

These strategies are part of what we call the HEART framework of sustained crisis communication (Waldron & Wetherbe, 2020).


Home-grown Software by Genex Insights

Be prepared to respond. 

Resolve is the Genex Insights closed loop recovery software 

Our platform includes advanced case management functionality. It routes cases to the appropriate members of your team and escalates matters to ensure consistent, timely responses to customer queries and complaints. Even more importantly, detailed case information is linked directly to the analytics service. We’re able to use this information to identify and eliminate pain points in the overall customer experience (CX). 

It is a case management system which gives service recovery managers access to low ratings, escalations and complaints so that participants can be contacted and assisted.

Some of the capabilities include:

  • Sends real time email alerts; notifying service recovery personnel that a client is dissatisfied 
  • Provides a case management workflow software for contacting the client
  • Provides a platform for reporting 

Many organisations are getting ahead of their complaint management processes by using this superior technology, ensuring that they deliver on their promises.


Customer complaints come in all forms and happen to every business under the sun, for this reason it’s important to weigh what type of response makes sense. Dealing with a customer complaint takes a great deal of tact, and ignoring it can wreak havoc on your entire business reputation. When a customer has a particularly sensitive complaint about your business products and services, how you deal with it can mean the difference between good customer service and a poor attempt at helping.

Wanting to really help your customer while recognising the feedback as an opportunity to improve your company defines good complaint management which can only be achieved with a well-organised complaint management system which ensures service recovery that recognises and meets customer expectations.

Recovery is fundamental to service excellence and should therefore be regarded as an integral part of a service company’s strategy.

With the right customer-centric attitude and an awareness of what people need right now, companies can emerge from this crisis having strengthened their relationships with customers. Give consumers your HEART during this difficult time (Waldron & Wetherbe, 2020). It will cultivate long-lasting goodwill with past customers and help ensure they will stay with you in the future.

In service businesses, the old adage must be revised: To err is human; to recover, divine (Hart, Heskett, & Sesser, Jr. 1990).

Genex Insights is here to help you turn those Complaints into company Wins! 

Download the white paper on Complaint Management