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How should we deal with customer complaints?

Discussion in 'ISO 9001:2015 - Quality Management Systems' started by jamescrockford, Jun 16, 2018.

  1. jamescrockford

    jamescrockford Active Member

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    Hi guys,

    I moved company back at the start of March and am really struggling to find my way in my new place.

    One of my main struggles is around the resolution of customer complaints. At my last company, I took the report from the customer directly I.e. the customer would be put through to me by the project manager when an issue was reported such as a defective part. I would then record the conplaint, contain it e.g. by sending a replacement part or an engineer to site to investigate, then do the root cause investigation etc. At my new place, the containment is being done or not by the project manager who then reports the issue to me to investigate (I have no interaction with the customer). My problem is that having not been involved since the report first came in I am struggling to stay on top of the detail and I don’t feel it is the best way to deal with these problems.

    Can I ask for peoples thoughts as to the best way to handle such issues?

    I was always very good at handling customer complaints and was told regularly by customers that they didn’t mind mistakes being made if it is quickly dealt with (which it always was and why customers were never left disatisfied). I don’t feel like the same can be said at my new company.

    I’m wandering whether I should ask management to put a system in place whereby such issues are reported directly to myself?
     
  2. RoxaneB

    RoxaneB Moderator Staff Member

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    Where I work, it is the person who hears about the complaint who is responsible for recording it into our system and providing sufficient information that local leadership can resolve. My role is higher up and to look at over numbers, results, trends, patterns, strengths, opportunities...and process issues. It sounds as if in your new role you could be tasked with the oversight of the overall customer interaction/management process, as opposed to being the one who deals directly with the customer. If it's a larger organization, this could make sense. My own organization receives numerous issues each day from various sources; having one person as the "fixer of all" would be impossible.

    Develop training aids to help explain how to collect the right type/amount of information, how to interact with customers, how to de-escalate situations, etc.
     
  3. Golfman25

    Golfman25 Well-Known Member

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    Who gets the report is irrelevant. If during your review and investigation you need customer input, can't you get it? Get what you need and solve the problem.
     
  4. hogheavenfarm

    hogheavenfarm Well-Known Member

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    So you are saying the project manager addresses the problem, then reports the issue to you for root cause and preventative action, that you no longer are the one who decides how to manage the customer satisfaction, only the issue itself.
    As Roxane said, this is typical of a larger company, it is the smaller ones that are more involved at the personal level, and while that may be rewarding, your job is to make sure this issue does not come up again. As Golfman said, even if you do not settle the issue with your customer, you can still ask them for feedback to help address the preventative action to be taken.
     
  5. jamescrockford

    jamescrockford Active Member

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    Hi Roxanne,

    Many thanks for your reply. Just to clarify, this is how things work currently...

    1. Project Manager/Account Manager receives report from installer/actual customer (may relate to faulty/missing/incorrect product)
    2. Project Manager arranges immediate containment action e.g. send replacement part/send engineer to site to investigate report.
    3. Project Manager raises NCR (we call it an IR) with details of project and action taken to date and forwards to the Quality Manager (myself).
    4. Quality Manager records IR in the IR register and assigns IR to the relevant department/process manager depending on the nature of the IR with a set deadline for completion.
    5. Assignee returns completed IR (detailing root cause and corrective action) to Quality Manager who reviews and signs off if satisfactory (possibly setting a follow up date to check the effectiveness) then updates the IR register accordingly.
    6. Quality Manager reports on numbers, trends, patterns etc. at Management Review using the IR register data as an input.

    So essentially, I am not involved in the initial containment action but the root cause/corrective action/reporting.

    How does this sound?
     
  6. Golfman25

    Golfman25 Well-Known Member

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    Idk. Why do you want the extra work? Other than your own opinion about how it should be, it looks reasonable to me. What's not working?
     
  7. RoxaneB

    RoxaneB Moderator Staff Member

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    If it works for the company and your customers, then I'd suggest leaving it be. Sometimes it's tough letting others do all the work, especially if it's in areas where we used to function. Case in point, my own professional development involves learning to take a step back and let others do the more hands-on work. I had an FMEA sent to me (I had participated in the original meeting), but when the template was sent to me I started to overhaul it. It would have taken me all day to get the document right, but I realized that doing so was no longer my responsibility, especially in light of other priorities that needed attention. Instead, I commented on the areas where I had concerns and sent the document with recommendations back to the originating quality manager. I was twitching all day, but I need to learn to lead, not do.

    The same may apply in your case.
     
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  8. jamescrockford

    jamescrockford Active Member

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    Okay thanks Roxanne. I will try to leave the PM's to sort the correction/containment and I shall concentrate on the root cause/corrective action verification.

    Next question...

    Should every issue reported (be it a customer complaint, reject, audit finding etc.) have a full root cause investigation and corrective action plan? At the moment, every IR raised is having this.
    Also, I have one form (the IR) which is used to report everything....complaints, rejects, audit findings etc. I'm finding that having one form to do all means it doesn't have all of the fields needed as is trying to act as a jack of all trades. Can you offer any advice on this? At my last company, I had a complaint form, a reject form and an audit finding form.
     
  9. RoxaneB

    RoxaneB Moderator Staff Member

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    No, a root cause is not needed for everything. And too many forms can lead to the wrong form used - delaying resolution, skewing results, etc. - not to mention the extra work needed in controlling them.

    Let me use an example from steel manufacturing. When we were rolling Product A, the line was set up for it. Then it would be time to change over to make Product B - this would mean changing the guides and rollers along the line. It's like setting up your pasta maker to make lasagna sheets one moment and then changing it over so that you can roll out spaghetti.

    Changeovers were to take a certain amount of time. However, occasionally "stuff" happened and changeovers took longer.

    We analyzed the reasons for the longer times and looked at the times themselves. It would be impossible and impractical to analyze every single changeover delay, so based on our analysis, we would record each one as a nonconformance be it 2 minutes or 2 hours, but only those that took longer than a certain amount of time (i.e., the top 20% that caused the lengthiest delays) would result in corrective action (i.e., root cause analysis, full blown action plan, etc.).

    The shorter delays were still captured and tracked - because this is data that we would analyze each year in determining what would trigger a corrective action - but they only received a correction (i.e., get the guides and rollers in asap).

    It's easy to keep comparing your current company to where you used to work, however, I suggest you actively attempt to stop doing the comparison. It's like comparing your current girlfriend to your ex (or your Mom)...at some point, the current girlfriend is going to get fed up and suggest you go back to your ex (or your Mom).

    Where you are now is a different company with a different culture and different history. You many not know all the story behind how they reached the point where they are - rather than say "At my last job, we did xyz", ask for why something is done the way it is and then, if you think it can be improved, ask "Have you considered xyz" - just don't say it's from your former job.

    Get to know them and their culture and their mindset. Listen. Don't judge. Don't come across as implying everything they do is wrong or ineffective. You might start to find yourself being accepted a bit more and your suggestions for improvement might be given more consideration.
     
    Last edited: Jun 22, 2018
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  10. Golfman25

    Golfman25 Well-Known Member

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    Good points. It seems like the current company is about keeping it simple, i.e.; a single form vs. multiple forms. If you start adding complexity to it you likely won't last long. They may have already been thru that stage.
     
  11. jamescrockford

    jamescrockford Active Member

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    I have now been at my new job for 4 months and people are accepting what I am trying to do. They had no system in place when I joined, or should I say there was a very loose system in place that wasn’t being used and things weren’t getting closed out etc. I came in and decided to try a one form and register system to capture everything be it a customer complaint, an internal reject, an audit finding or an opportunity for improvement. This was very different to my last company where I had a form and register for complaints, a form and register for rejects and then a form and register for corrective actions (a corrective action request might be raised to carry out full root cause investigation in relation to a customer complaint or reject). My new company have not really had a Quality Manager before and so they are behind whatever I try to bring in, it is me questioning my decision and wanting to have the best system in place possible.

    If the form and register captures everything, how would I denote on the register which issues have required full root cause analysis and would this then require a new form?

    Sorry for all the questions, just trying to get it right as will lay the foundations for everything I want to achieve here.
     
  12. Golfman25

    Golfman25 Well-Known Member

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    Don't overthink it. Start small and work from there. You can easily change things. To me, if you use a form then you need a single reporting form that says "hey jamesrockford" I found this -- be it a customer complaint, rejects, audit findings, improvements, whatever. On that form, you can have a disposition. Talked to customer, bribed him with lunch, fixed problem, use as is, escalate to corrective action, etc. If you make a determination to escalate to a full 8D and corrective action, to me that's a different process and you kick the problem into that process. There are dozens of 8D problem solving forms available.
     

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