Most businesses who deal with consumers will have seen a substantial increase in the number of consumer complaints they’ve had to deal with over the past 5 years and this trend is expected to continue. In addition, the much anticipated arrival of the Consumer Rights Act 2015 in October is likely to peak interest in consumer compliance, potentially leading to an increase in complaints activity.

So what can your business do to ensure it’s doing all it can to manage this increase from a risk management and consumer experience perspective?

1. Training

Make sure your employees are knowledgeable and aware of consumer rights in the jurisdiction that you are operating. Consumers are becoming more and more familiar about what rights of redress they have against businesses and in the UK the Consumer Rights Act 2015 brings about even more. It is now more important than ever to understand a consumer’s rights, so that you can accurately assess the risks to your business and identify when a consumer’s demands can be challenged.

2. Learn from your consumers

In our experience, too many businesses concentrate solely on “call centre” KPIs such as response times, satisfaction and cost. Whilst it’s very important for businesses to deal with the ever rising customer contacts in the most cost effective and consumer friendly way, consumer relation teams should also work closely with both marketing and quality assurance teams.

The consumer relations team is a fantastic resource to the rest of the business, use them to identifying recent consumer trends, product quality and product safety issues as they arise. The quicker a business deals with product safety or product recall issues the less risk that regulators will need to take enforcement action.

3. Deal with sensitive issues immediately

Generally the quicker you deal with issues the lower the risk exposure. Ideally, you should have well drafted procedures outlining specific escalation procedures for dealing with urgent and sensitive consumer issues such as product safety concerns. A crisis management plan should be adopted ensuring clear communication lines with all key stakeholders in the business.

4. Become social media savvy

The consumer complaints industry is changing. More and more contacts are made via social media and as such every business should have its own “Social Media Strategy” and “Social Media Complaints Policy”. A well-defined social media policy will help businesses approach complaints in a consistent manner. It is a fine balance between picking the right battles and shutting down the wrong ones in the most effective way.

5. Don’t cave in to consumers with unreasonable expectations

It’s a central concept of retailing that the “consumer is always right”. However, some consumers can hold un-reasonable expectations. Businesses should analyse their most common complaints to ascertain the “real” risk to the business. Almost all consumer complaint resolutions result from businesses fearing brand reputation and costs of litigation but in some defined instances businesses shouldn’t be afraid to draw a line. Caving in to un-reasonable consumers can have its own repercussions, setting precedents and eating in to your finite resources.