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Complaint Handling - ecommerce

Go to solution Solved by Rajesh Chakrabarty,


Q 69. Have a look at five things Ocado does to deal with complaints -  Click here to read the article. After going through the article, provide your own view on aspects of complaint handling - Simple method, acknowledgment, quick response, well-written response, no quibbles. You may like to elaborate on each. Do you think the author has missed something? Is there something you do not agree with?  


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This was indeed a great article. It gave an insight into the implementation of the basic complaint handling method, which subsequently puts forth the culture and values of the organisation. The Basic 5 Stepladders towards perfect execution is well covered by Ocada through:


1)      Easy and simple accessibility – Very important for the customer to be able to reach out with ease …It gives indicates that the  feedback is welcome and appreciated and hence the process is made easy for the customer.


2)      Prompt Acknowledgement- Very important as with the advent of technology in media and communication, a response is expected as a “default” by the communicator for the assurance of a communication loop being closed. The faster the response, the better. Also, the acknowledgment gives the complainant the comfort that his or her grievance is taken note of – and the initial anxiety is reduced.


3)      Quick Response- fast or ready Decision on resolution. This is the most desired action that a complainant would want. Delight is guaranteed if the decision is in favour of the Complainant!!


4)      Well Written Response : The language and tone plays a great role in the impact of the communication- A personal touch and a humane feel gives the best impact.


5)      No Quibbles :The last straw for an already upset person would be any further objection or trivial query- It can at many times aggravate the initial ire.


It is visible that Ocado has considered the factors to provide a seamless & customer centric complaint management system.


A point that comes in for consideration is how well autonomation can be used ,to accomplish the above steps and an approach to improve the internal processes through the above-mentioned steps.


-  Ease of Accessibility is a completely technological approach as there are multiple channels available and all of them are easy to host on a single CRM Platform- Twitter, Facebook, Contact center, etc. The customer can use any channel that is convenient.


-  Acknowledgement can be an auto response. In addition to this, I personally feel that the customer should be provided with an acknowledgment / Docket number. This number can be used for any future reference to the complaint.


-  Quick Response is the key to resolving a complaint and mitigating most of the situations as a conversation starts with the customer- How well this conversation is effected is what makes the difference ..


I personally believe that this process has to have a human intervention to understand the core issue or concerns that the customer has put forth- Some added benefits that can be accrued thus are :


i) The Concerns faced by the customers can be categorized to specific functions/ Departments within the organizations and thus creating a functional accountability. Then they can be further bifurcated to different types of possible  failure modes, thus also identifying the frequency of such detectable deviation from process.


ii) The efficiency and productivity of the Functions / Departments can be improved by analyzing root causes of the defects and defectives and taking corrective and preventive actions.


iii) Cycle times for internal processes can be defined and adhered to and thus a Lead time can also be committed to the customer.


-  Well Written Response can always be a canned i.e. predetermined responses through text – based technical support systems, because most of the complaints or concerns are repetitive in the online retail industry.However a minor intervation to give that “personal” touch is recommended for out of normal/ regular cases.


-  No Quibbles-  will only give great comfort to the customer and hence the focus needs to be on reducing defects and type 2 errors – the system needs to be enabled through continuos improvement to reduce the need to take more than limited details of the order. The customers are normally okay to give purchase details in brief. They expect the remaining work to be done by the merchant.  In the case study provided the cost of the reject material was not to the extent of requiring to many more details- this is a business call that the organisation needs to take – what is the extent of COB that is okay to pass on towards customer delight.


An additional gesture that can also be done here is to update the customer on the action taken post the feedback to improve on the process and to reduce or eradicate the recurrence of their concern or complaint in the future. This can actually create the WOW factor , as the customer will feel delighted that not only was the concern resolved as an single standing issue , but his feedback was taken as an starting point for improvement in the organisation- THE CUSTOMER WILL FEEL IMPORTANT- in true means the gesture will imply that CUSTOMER IS KING!!

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Complaint Handling is definitely one of the areas that provides any industry direct Customer Feedback. It is the key  "Voice of the Customer" , which cannot be ignored, handled with less attention, given robotic responses, or make Customer slog to provide you all information, so that they never dare to raise a complaint and lastly be accessible only when the Sun at your side is Up . 

Today's  Complaint Handling systems tools are pretty much standard and in a way complex,  having interfaces to capture customer query, indicate status of the work done, and reports for one to analyze which part of the world the Customer has raised a ticket and for what product.

Somewhere down the line, today's systems  have made the Complaint System complex , in order to reduce the effort required in consumption of this data in One's downstream systems.


Now if you look at Ocado, they have left out the details that are required internally by their organization, completely out of the Complaint system . They have primarily focused only on the basics of Capturing Customer Query with features to attach images , and a promise of a  timeline that they strictly adhere to. This is in line with the limited Time a Customer may have . Today's Customers do want to be treated as if any Human would treat another , if he is Face to Face.  His motive is to get an acknowledgment of his request quickly and probably would like to hear what has been of his request. Hence quick response is a mandatory MUST.


Well written responses are those responses that are structured with Context including Greeting at the start, message to be conveyed including action and conclusions/summary at the end .Ocado's message had all this. In addition to that, the message also mentioned how the Customer had added value to their organization by including the Product code, which made things easier for them to track, though it was not requested.  


Some Complaint systems at the end, ask for raising the request again, if the response was not satisfactory. This is an unnecessary quibble, which adds no value. Then the same organizations talks internally about resolving all Customer queries First Time right. Ocado, seems to have understood this and hence made sure that the first response is right and the no quibbles policy works just fine.


If i was Ocado, i would have added one more  thing OR elaborated a bit in the message  and that would be to mention the "Interim Preventive Action that "PINK Ladies will come with a Consumption Tag of within 4 -5 days". Though they mention in their message, they take issues of quality very seriously, for a cynical customer (who has been on the other side), this part would still appear to be a gap in Ocado's well written email message.


So in my opinion a definite Preventive action or an Interim Preventive Action added in the Response, will bring the Customer become a " Ocado HEAVY" customer or in other words "STICKY customer".




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Compliant handling process mentioned in short,  few things are missing. Let's go through the gaps when we compare standard process. 

1. How the customer identified,  is there any customer login page which is not mentioned in the article.  If there is, how it is. What's the required content and if it time consuming and unnecessary details.  If no how they identified if the item is bought from that particular shop. 

2. Bill or receipt mentions the details of product not only for commercial purpose but also track batch code for identifying vendor and batch for reverse investigation. It's not mention that how photographs will help to improve the quality in future. 

3. There is no enough data is captured for failed product. Data is critical when someone really needs to improve the product with RCA. Is there any mechanism which will gather these details prior to refund is unknown from article. 

4. Refund policy is not mentioned on the forum,  which may lead to increase no of  unsatisfied customer.  

5. Feedback response is quick and tried to calm down temper of customer but next process and timeline for refund is not mentioned. 

The feedback on Prima fascia seems to be immediately retains after the mail is received so complete storry is unaware. 




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 Feedback is an important aspect of any business and how the feedback is handled is even more important to the company.  This always shows how the company responds and not the employee, irrespective of the mood of the employee.


The list completes all the aspects – by keeping the communication approachable, immediate acknowledgement, responding to the topic with a human touch, accepting and owning the responsibility and more over the mail also explains further action that would be taken with clarity. 


This has a lot to tell about what is acknowledged and what is denied.  If the feedback is acknowledged the credit usually goes to the company or the brand.  If the complaint is not handled well, the company and the employee both has the equal share. 


The recent example of Indigo airlines about how a passenger was treated went viral affecting the brand image.  But who was at fault?  Did the passenger misbehave, was it a pity issue to be neglected or were the employees handling the passenger lost control over themselves.  


A simple yet powerful formula for any successful business is:


Trust = cost+ TAT


Trust increases when cost and the Turn around time decreases.  The vice versa is equally true.   The same hold good for feedback and complaints also.


At the same time, we should not forget that we are representing a company with dignity.  If the feedback is genuine owning the responsibility increases the trust.  

If the feedback is not genuine or exaggerated without valid reason, justifying the same politely and with clarity also matters.

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Customer complaints are inevitable, no matter how streamlined your business. They must always be acknowledged and dealt with effectively. By ignoring or dismissing complaints, you are effectively telling the customer that you don’t value their opinions.
Many business owners see complaint management as a time-consuming and frustrating process. However, by developing an efficient system, complaints can be resolved quickly and easily.

Complain receiving mode should be as simple as possible. Even a illiterate person should be able to raise a complain. Language should not be a barrier for same and can be taken by any mode like phone call, online or written. If a complain is for improvement some monetary award to be offered.  

Acknowledge should be always a priority as it indicate you received complain and working on  it. It should reflect that you understood the complain. A promise should also be given that problem Will be solved on priority. 

A response on complain should be made as early as possible. As it will act as healing touch or primary medicine which will restrict anger of customer from taking further harsh step as well as you get time to solve problem. 
You must response in polite as well as in professional manner. Your response should contain apology as well as thanks and surety that action are taken and same Will not happen in future. 
You should be good listener for taking care of all complain. Should listen customer side and then even if you don't agree on complain you should not fight with him. Though the problem is small it should not be criticised. 
As the process followed by  Ocado is simple I think they missed the follow up from customer after problem is solved. This will boost company reputation and also free mouth publicity by customer.


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My view on complaint handling would be partially on similar lines of Ocado but with these additional aspects


Method of Complaint: - There has to be more channels to complain apart from Twitter which could be Facebook, Web portal chat, Messaging, Toll free phone(instead of going on a paid call), Mobile phone application via which the complaint can be made. Keeping in view the customers from all around the world, the supermarket could ask for the batch number of product on which the complaint is made.


The Mobile phone application in particular should have features which should load the purchase of the customer based on the date & time of purchase from which the customer can chose to complain on a particular item or on a purchase as a whole


Acknowledgement: - In these channels, except for the messaging feedback/complaint, acknowledgement can be immediately provided.


Response: - A message from a human requesting for an option of delivering replacement product or with refund of purchase (either to the bank account of purchase or as wallet credit in the app for next purchase) amount within 24hours would be an ideal case instead of just refund option. The replacement option with a small gift (apology card or something) would take the customer service to the next level


On top of all this, a telephone call to the customer apart from the message/mail to your e-mail, Mobile App or Char portal would show the seriousness with which they treat the customers.


Of course, replacement or refund of a faulty/defective/bad product is the right of the customer for which a process and timeline has to be followed within which the resolution would be provided. But exceptional customer service is when the supermarket incentivizes the customer for a complaint non-monetarily. This could be in the form of a better product replacement or an assurance showing what action they have taken to minimize the faulty/bad products coming from their supplier and a mail/call/message of appreciation to the customer. They could further explain their action and express gratitude to the customer for taking time in complaining which not only helps the customer but the supermarket in improving the service level.


Well, coming to the article of the author in which he/she has in-brief explained one of the processes with which the complaint is made and handled both in terms of quality and number(time taken for resolution), could have elaborated about the other channels of complaint too. This would help in understanding how the dynamics of complaint management works in each country. Also regarding the hassle of providing the supermarket with just a photograph, it would be great to collect the batch number in case of a phone call/message/chat(excluding app) so that even the supermarket can verify this bad product(in case of complaints from several other customers) and make sure that they don’t let this happen in future

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I fully appreciate the complaint handling process mentioned here. But I have an issue with the Occade for not working on the root cause of the problem.


I will give an example of complaint handling of the milk dairy that used to cater to 1000 of customers in our area. One day we had kept the milk in the fridge like we used to keep it every day and by the time we used it after few hours, the milk was spoilt. We were surprised but thought that there might be some issue and did not complain. Subsequently, we had the same issue repeat few times in next 2 weeks. Then we called the dairy and complained the milk is spoilt.


Even there they apologized for the inconvenience caused and told us not to throw the spoilt milk and not open any unopened packets(if any) and promised that they will visit our home in next 1 or 2 hours. They promptly came apologized and gave us the replacement of fresh milk packets and they took the spoilt milk and also unopened packets. Then they visited other homes where the supply was from same milk dairy and asked them if they had a similar issue. They had bought sufficient stock of fresh milk packets anticipating problems in many homes. Most of them had not complained but were pleasantly surprised to see the officials proactively visiting their home and replacing the good milk packets. They asked some questions about the time of delivery and other vital issues. Interestingly after this visit by officials, we did not face the issue for almost 2 to 3 weeks. Then one day the officials called us and told that the milk supplier of our area was trying to adulterate the milk by opening the plastic cover and diluting it with water and other chemicals and sealing it back. Even the date of mfg seal was tampered with. He was doing it very randomly so that nobody gets doubt. The officials had sent the milk taken from homes for test and had found the root cause of the issue.


So in my view, while handling the complaint though it is important to address the complaint immediately, more important to find the root cause to ensure that the problem does not recur. This can be done without creating any issues to the customer too. 


So in my view in this article, the company did all correct things in handling customer complaint but missed to arrest the issue from recurring.  For all we know the supplier was giving good quality apples but may be the storage in the shop was faulty or the temperature used by stores was not as per the recommended standards and so on




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I think the 5 steps to manage customer complaints through email is just simple and seemed ideal.

Practically, I feel there is more to it….. like,


1.       How much is complaints team empowered to do, just reply or really command a change to solve the issue by networking with rest of the organization


2.       In the example, it would be interesting to know how the feedback to food Technology team translate to avoiding the issue in future or it was just a good standard script to be good to customer. Being good is given!!!


3.       Complaint management is not just responding appropriately but to manage the difficult part called “Perception” which is a strong influencer to repeat transaction with us. So what do we notice the next time we deliver some product to this customer – is there intelligence to understand this aspect within the complaint cell or process


4.       Now the script, what if I write one more mail, do I get to see some of these line repeating – then that’s a machine called Human typing it.. it becomes flavorless the very next time I write

A culmination of all these aspects possibly make it a good process (still a doubt “possibly” as we are dealing with Humans and we are in the journey of grouping them logically so we deal with them accordingly ….

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On 1/29/2018 at 12:44 PM, Vishwadeep Khatri said:

Q 69. Have a look at five things Ocado does to deal with complaints -  Click here to read the article. After going through the article, provide your own view on aspects of complaint handling - Simple method, acknowledgment, quick response, well-written response, no quibbles. You may like to elaborate on each. Do you think the author has missed something? Is there something you do not agree with?  


This question is a part of Excellence Ambassador initiative and is open for 3 days. There is a reward for best answer in first 24 hours and another for best in 3 days. All rewards are mentioned here - https://www.benchmarksixsigma.com/forum/excellence-ambassador-rewards/.The scoreboard is here -  https://www.benchmarksixsigma.com/forum/business-excellence-scoreboard/


All questions so far can be seen here - https://www.benchmarksixsigma.com/forum/lean-six-sigma-business-excellence-questions/

Here is my feedback on the 5 key elements


Simple method – This was handled well by Ocado but we should not sacrifice traceability for simplicity. For registering a complaint the mandatory fields can be minimal to ensure simplicity, but there should be ample non-mandatory fields for Date of Purchase / Receipt # etc. That way – time/resources required for tagging Complaint # to Order # can be minimized or eliminated. A suggestion – if the customer takes a picture of the product with the barcode, Image Recognition and AI tools can identify the product and the order number.


Acknowledgment – An auto acknowledgment is critical to keep the customer engaged and given that its a system trigger, the scope for improvement is limited.


Quick response – As mentioned in the article, 24 hours should be the standard given that the org only needs to retrieve the information and update the customer on remedial action. The actual remedial action can take more than 24 hours and we can call that out in the response. As a customer, I would be absolutely fine with this approach.


Well-written response – Ocado seems to have got this right. A suggestion – a well-written response doesn’t necessarily need to be a manual one. There are multiple organizations using Machine Learning and Natural Language Processing to use a customer’s publicly available digital profile to create a system-generated response that is personalized and quick at the same time. Of course, there still needs to be the last mile check by an agent before the mail is dispatched – from a legal / compliance perspective.


No quibbles - It’s critical that customers do not experience negativity in the response, however, there should be some sort of FAQ document in the response that guides customers on preventing issues eg Check if there are any storage-related instructions, expiry date checks etc..


It’s very true that it takes an effort to raise a complaint – given these customers have shown an inclination to provide feedback, they should be included in the organizations' Design Thinking workshops. This will improve the qual(nt)ity of feedback and improve the connect the customer feels with the brand.

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Simple method, acknowledgment, quick response, well-written response, no quibbles.


Well the article is excellent and I am 100% agreed with that. The complaint handling always should be smooth and justified for the customer. In general people don't complaints[except a few example we received from two web retailers - that customer used to order product and then used to return with garbages/empty box]. For any business CUSTOMER is GOD and business should take care of Gods... As described in the above article it should be -


A. Simple - now a days when we call any help number most of the time we gets IVR, which actually irritates us a bit and then a lots of press this and that then probably we got a executive who really can or try to UNDERSTAND our issues and takes or promises to make it right or rejects or sometimes whatever number you press ultimately you will have round-and-round IVR game and you will reach no where except a message - "Thank You For Contacting Us" or "Sorry, You have reached maximum number of trials". So whatever it is ultimately the way should be simple so that customer at least can raise their issue - approving or rejecting is a comes after that.


B. Acknowledgment - there should have a proper acknowledgement so that it can recognised the issue - a customer facing. A ticket id might be generated, by which it can be tracked in future. And customer also gets a sense of - "Well, my issue will be addressed"


C. Quick Response - Its time the modify the last line - "...customer also gets a sense of - "Well, my issue will be addressed" to - customer also gets a sense of - "Well, my issue will be addressed SOON". Say a mobile got brust and the customer gets a feedback from the company after 5 month - just imagine the horror story!!! So a quick response is must and for that only, in most cases a immediate automated reply comes with a ticket id. The more you delay the more your reputation is on stake.  A quick response/solution makes customer happy too- they feel valuable to the provider - which increases band value.


D. Well-written Response - this is very crucial - few things must be there - a maximum time limit to address your issue or to get back to you with basic things. There should have apologies/technical details/issue details etc. A well written/described email can make a customer believe that his/her issue is getting taken care of - which means a lots.


F. No quibbles - Whatever the response is - it should be given straight to customer because no has time play round-and-round game. 


Now, I will share two stories - rather personal experience - 


1. I was using SIM[Bengal circle] of a particular provider and I and was using the same at Mumbai as I didn't wanted to change my number[was using the same number for more than 8yrs] as it was given in so many places/friends and by the time the provider started upgrading from 2g to 3g and for that customers had to recharge with a minimum value, but they never informed me and my SIM got blocked when I contacted customer care from other they said it can't happened that they failed to inform me! Well, I took this up to social media some round-and-round game started but unfortunately nothing happened, recently the company got sold to another company.


2. It was 2008, I was using a postpaid plan of a certain provider, and that time internet usage was very rare over phone. One day my senior asked me to check a email and response I did that maximum for 20 minutes - remember that was era of 2g. It was  ~Rs 99 plan that time but they send a bill of ~Rs 3500. I asked the details - they said

Representative:  "sir you have downloaded things from internet"  

i said - if you can say I have downloaded things from internet tell me the sites I visited and how much data I have consumed site wise, I will pay every bucks but I need full details.


One thing to confirm - I just emailed that day - nothing else!


They never came up with data but didn't forgot to threaten me via third party[money recovery team] in different manner but they fade up after a month and I never paid the bill.


So above two examples the lack of every six points[A to F] which makes me a angry customer for them but end of the day - they lost business, I lost those two numbers, their loss is non-fixable but not mine. So if you can't satisfy or justify to customer, customer will simply move on to the other competitors.  



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It looks perfect as they are taking appropriate action on the compliant by refund the amount. Some customer touch missing on collection of refund for the customer however it might be easily resolved as every customer have dedicated account for online purchases...

So, looks like a perfect one from customer perspective.

From Operations perspective, they make their customer happy as well they are ensuring that the feedback has been shared as a preventive measure.

For perfection, there are always scope for improvement but by this time, it looks good for me and we can fill the remaining % of gap, from the voice of customer...if any feedback provided again and hope we won't miss that customer if our intentions (connecting customer with emotions and integrity) are correct.

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My take: customer complaint handling process is good. However, they can improve on proactiveness - 1. Indicate shelf life period for perishable products so that the customer knows how long they could keep it, 2. Offer the customer 2 options - either a refund or delivering the product itself to the customer's place

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My view on Customer handling aspects 

Simple Means - Keeping the process simple to allow customer share his complaint/feedback and keeping the resolution process simple without multiple authorizations (empowering).

Acknowledge Means not only just acknowledging the request but getting back to customer or repeating the issue to customer to make sure that the problem is clearly understood

Quick Response is not to respond quickly but keeping customer informed about each and every stage of the solution provided.

A well-Written response will help in gaining customer trust & confidence back, It is utmost important to implement the solution as per the response.

No Quibbles - Quibbles to be always avoided in any customer communication because a simple misunderstanding could create a big loss to the organization.

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Sr. No.

Complaint Handling Aspect

Best Practices already followed

What more could be done?


Simple method

Ease of making a complaint


Crisp and helpful notes to assist the customer


Making the customer not feel guilty about complaining

An app downloadable on mobile using which complaints could be made directly



Auto acknowledgement

Nothing more to add as long as it is followed by a proper response


Quick response

Committed target me

Nothing more to add


Well-written response

Accepting the error


Mentioning the refund in the beginning


Explaining the action taken


Thanking the complainant for the feedback


Thanking the complainant for the photographic evidence


Apologizing again before signing off

“pink ladies” could be replaced with “pink lady apples”


Abbreviations like “I’m” and “I’ve” could be expanded


As the mood of the customer is obvious, OCADO could have “apologized for the disappointment” rather than “any disappointment”


In addition to the refund, for helping OCADO trace and correct a failure mode, the customer could be given a free e-voucher for the goods damaged, i.e. six pink lady apples, which could be collected the next time the customer visits any OCADA store


No quibbles

Trusting the customer as no further questions are asked

Nothing more to add


May need to be reviewed for bigger refunds

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Quite a few noteworthy responses here including those by Rajesh Chakravarty, Togy, Sumanta, Anand, Mohan, Rajesh Babu, Krishnamurthy. There are at least 3 strong contenders for best answers but the winner I have selected is Rajesh Chakravarty for some additional ideas on each element and a very good final comment. 



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