This article is written to meet the following sections of the Standards:

BRCGS Food Safety Issue 83.10 Complaint-handling
BRCGS Packaging Issue 63.12 Complaint-handling
BRCGS Agents & Brokers Issue 3
3.8 Complaint handling
BRCGS Storage & Distribution Issue 43.10 Complaints handling
FSSC22000 Version 5.1No specific section, intention is within ISO22000:2018
9.1.1 General (monitoring, measuring, analysis and evaluation)
10.1 Nonconformity and corrective action
IFS Food Version 75.8 Management of complaints from authorities and customers
SQF Edition 92.1.3 Complaint Management

Pack 3: Continuous Improvement eDocs

Looking to super-charge your continuous improvement process – then this pack is for you! Giving you simple, well-structured systems for:

  • Internal audits
  • GMP inspections
  • Non-conforming product
  • Returns
  • Stock write-off
  • Complaints
  • Non-conformances
  • Corrective action
  • Root cause analysis
  • Trending and review
Pack 3: Continuous Improvement eDocs

Source of complaints

Complaints can come from a number of sources and the process needs to be able to handle them all, including:

  • Customer complaints
  • Consumer complaints
  • Local authority complaints

This means that each complainant needs to know how to raise a complaint with the company. Therefore, the customer needs to know how to log a complaint. And the consumer needs to know how to make a complaint – using the contact details provided on the packaging. The local authority also needs to be directed to the relevant person when they make contact with the company. This may mean, that the switchboard will need to know how to direct their call.

Complaints can be received for many reasons, including environmental and community type complaints. However, for the food standards, the complaints process must cover as a minimum:

  • Complaints due to the product manufactured.
  • Complaints due to traded product, including own label, customer label and branded product.
  • Handled product.
  • Services provided.

Receiving complaints

Receiving complaintsAll complaints must be received, and the results of the issue recorded, where sufficient information is provided.

All complaints need to be captured through one single system, to ensure they are all recorded, adequately assessed, investigated, and the results of the investigation recorded.

The investigation must be completed within a defined timeframe and feedback provided to the complainant wherever contact details are provided.

When serious complaints are received, there must be an escalation process in place, to ensure that those who need to know about them, find out about them quickly so they can act.

Complaints procedure

A documented complaints procedure is required, which ensures that the process is followed by using a standardised complaint form.

Where traded products are handled, the complaint information should be communicated to the complaints department at the manufacturing site. If necessary, this information should be relayed through third parties, such as agents.

Where a consumer complaint hasn’t been received via the customer, the customer must be informed.

The procedure must define what a serious complaint is and how it must be communicated, to ensure it’s actioned in a timely manner.

Investigation

Complaints must be handled by appropriately trained and competent staff to ensure that the severity, and therefore the significance is identified.

The investigation must also be completed by competent staff.

Competency

For staff who investigate complaints they need to:

  1. Be trained.
  2. Be collaborative.
  3. Have the right mindset.
  4. Be inquisitive.
Investigating complaints

Trained

Complaints handling staff must be trained on the procedure.

Collaborative

Solving complaints needs to be a team effort, which means the person who is leading the investigation needs to include the right people. The skill is knowing which people to include at the right time.

Mindset

Having the right mindset towards complaints, is a key attribute – to ensure that complaints are investigated in a really robust manner.

A complaint must always be seen as legitimate and that the businesses will take ownership of it, instead of ‘passing the buck.’ Also, using the philosophy of ‘guilty until proven otherwise’ means that the investigation will look for why it went wrong. Rather than looking for reasons why it didn’t go wrong.

Looking for problems will result in a much more detailed investigation.

Inquisitive

When investigating complaints, you need to put your Sherlock Holmes hat on and become a detective. Things are not always as they may seem.

Here’s an example from my experience…

A complaint was received that looked like a piece of yellow plastic. The plastic had been reviewed by the management team who had concluded that there was no such plastic on site and therefore it hadn’t come from their site. When I reviewed the plastic, it looked like there was a shape or edge to it, but I couldn’t tell properly as it had product stuck to it. So, I decided to wash it, so I could see better. As I washed it, I found it got smaller. It turned out it was a boiled cough sweet…

Non-conformances

Investigation of a complaint must be completed within a defined timeframe and feedback provided to the complainant wherever contact details are provided.

Non-conformances must be raised where the fault is found to be due to non-conforming product. Although individual cases of non-conforming product may not require preventive action, the information must be trended to highlight reoccurring issues.

Management review

Management must routinely review the complaint results and trends, to ensure that support is provided where needed to drive improvement.

How do you manage your complaints?

We would love to know any of your recommendations, questions, or thoughts on this subject –  just leave us a comment below.

Pack 3: Continuous Improvement eDocs

Looking to super-charge your continuous improvement process – then this pack is for you! Giving you simple, well-structured systems for:

  • Internal audits
  • GMP inspections
  • Non-conforming product
  • Returns
  • Stock write-off
  • Complaints
  • Non-conformances
  • Corrective action
  • Root cause analysis
  • Trending and review
Pack 3: Continuous Improvement eDocs

Have your say…

One thought on “Handling complaints

    1. I saw your comment and checked out the guide – that is helpful.
      I use pivots in some spreadsheets but others (like complaints) have got manually created tables which take some tweaking when I have to add a product or customer. To be honest I hadn’t thought about making them into Pivots.
      One day, when I have time I’ll definitely Pivot that one!

      Thank you for the guide, I’m going to put it on the system so others can access it as well.

  1. Thank you for this article – it was very helpful. The pivot table guide is great – I’m not great with excel and a lot of our complaints data I save manually into excel so trending can be a bit time consuming. I will definitely give the pivot tables a go to see if it makes life easier!

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