Complaint management process explained

Complaint management - Toolshero

Complaint management: this article explains complaint management in a practical way. Next to what it is, this article also highlights the process and the preconditions for effective complaint management. Enjoy reading!

What is complaint management?

Complaint management is the process of managing customer complaints. It is important that this process is designed systematically and carried out in an orderly manner.

Every organization has to deal with complaints. If an organization receives an increasing number of complaints, there may be a problem with the product or service. Negative opinions about a product or brand quickly lead to negative reviews that can put the reputation of a brand or product at risk.

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This important process is about resolving individual complaints and identifying opportunities to implement systematic improvements.

It is also a method to collect valuable additional insights from customers. The method is mainly aimed at minimizing consumer dissatisfaction (negative feedback) with purchased products and services. In addition, efforts are made to improve service satisfaction, resolve the issue and to guarantee the quality of products or services.

An important part of this process is the complaint management system. This system is a (complaint management software) solution for companies that enables employees i.e. customer service to respond to customer complaints (complaint handling).

Effective complaint management is very important because it leads to lower costs, higher profitability, increased customer satisfaction and increased customer loyalty.

Why does an organization receive complaints?

Virtually every (commercial) organization has to deal with complaints from time to time. Even the most streamlined companies sometimes have to deal with situations where things don’t run smoothly. In addition, it is difficult to meet the wishes and needs of all individual customers.

The majority of customers may be satisfied (customer happiness), but there may still be a group of customers who experience problems with a product or service. There are also various moments when something can go wrong, for example during production or delivery.

It is therefore important to have a well-functioning and efficient complaint management system. Ultimately, the chance of errors decreases, because the customer’s feedback reaches the right department and the product or business processes can be optimized.

The complaint management process explained

This important process is about systematically handling customer criticism. Specialized employees develop strategies to receive complaints, how to respond and how to get feedback to the right people.

It is therefore important that they are aware of all the responsibilities of everyone within the organization. Only when criticism reaches the right person can it be turned into something positive.

The whole process revolves around two objectives:

  1. Increasing customer satisfaction and customer loyalty
  2. Quality assurance

The entire function of employees involved in this is dominated by these objectives. The tasks they take on can be divided into two categories.

  1. Complaint-specific solutions
  2. Business process optimization

Complaint-specific solutions

Simplifying complaints

It is important that dissatisfied customers are helped as quickly as possible, because companies do not want them to express their dissatisfaction on social media, for example. The opportunity to give feedback should therefore be made as easy as possible for the customer.

Positive contact

The customer must feel that they are in good hands during the handling of the complaint. Employees should therefore be trained to accept the criticism and make the dissatisfied customer feel that their opinion matters.

Setting up processes

It is crucial that the right feedback reaches the right people. That is the task of the person responsible for complaint management.

Executing actions

Employees must also directly help the customer with promotions, for example a discount or a special promotion. Exchanging a product is also one of the common actions.

Business process optimization

Analyzing feedback

The way customers leave feedback differs, despite attempts to do so in a structured way. Not every complaint is unique, but all input must be judged on the content and intentions of the customer. This is important in order to recognize patterns in the long term and to be able to set priorities.

Audit management

Audit management is about keeping the processes within complaint management efficient. Negative business processes can creep in there too. Audits sometimes reveal ways in which processes can be improved.


Administrators develop reports based on the insights they gain. These reports are an important element in the decision-making process whether or not to change business processes.

Preconditions for effective complaint management

Certain conditions must be met in order to successfully conduct complaint management. In the first place, it is necessary that complaint management is incorporated into the organizational structure. It should become a regular part of the business that everyone in the company considers an important factor.

In that case, it is a good idea to find suitable personnel and train them in the right way. This mainly concerns the contact moments with the customer. Employees should be proficient in direct contact with the customer because this contact leaves a lasting impression on people.

The people who do this work must be able to handle criticism and stressful situations well. Not all customers are constructive in the way they file a complaint.

Information flow

A customer’s complaint often comes through several parties. First of all, the company must have sufficient options for submitting complaints, for example online, via a hotline, chat or e-mail address. Feedback is also obtained through online forms or letters. Companies often go to great lengths to inform customers about these channels.

As soon as a complaint is received, it will be processed. At the first contact, friendliness and understanding play an important role. Make sure customers are immediately aware of which actions are being taken. This gives them the feeling that they are being heard.

The next step is to handle the complaint. This includes forwarding the complaint to the appropriate department. For many customers it is sufficient if they know that the complaint is taken seriously and that the problem will be solved. Other people have additional requirements. The support staff must also have sufficient resources for this.

If the complaint reaches the correct department, the complaint is analyzed and categorized. Sometimes business processes are adjusted, sometimes the complaint management system itself is adjusted and sometimes handling customer contact is sufficient because it was a rare error.

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It’s Your Turn

What do you think? Do you recognize the explanation about this important process? Do you work with a complaint management system? Or have you ever submitted a complaint to an organization because you were not satisfied with something? Do you think companies should pay more attention to handling complaints?

Share your experience and knowledge in the comments box below.

More information

  1. Fornell, C., & Wernerfelt, B. (1988). A model for customer complaint management. Marketing Science, 7(3), 287-298.
  2. Johnston, R., & Mehra, S. (2002). Best-practice complaint management. Academy of Management Perspectives, 16(4), 145-154.
  3. Stauss, B., & Seidel, W. (2019). Effective complaint management: The business case for customer satisfaction. Springer.

How to cite this article:
Janse, B. (2022). Complaint management. Retrieved [insert date] from Toolshero:

Original publication date: 10/11/2022 | Last update: 09/04/2023

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Ben Janse
Article by:

Ben Janse

Ben Janse is a young professional working at ToolsHero as Content Manager. He is also an International Business student at Rotterdam Business School where he focusses on analyzing and developing management models. Thanks to his theoretical and practical knowledge, he knows how to distinguish main- and side issues and to make the essence of each article clearly visible.


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