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Handling customer complaints and problems is an everyday part of any business in customer service and an important one. How your business deals with customer issues will reflect on your enterprise as a whole, for better or worse. Therefore, it is crucial that you develop an effective complaints process that satisfies your customers and aligns with the law. There are certain actions that you should and should not do under the law. However, there are also practices you should foster so that you can turn a customer complaint into a learning experience for your business. At the very least, there are things you can do to make your complaints process more effective and efficient. So, this article will go through some dos and don’ts for handling customer returns and complaints in New Zealand.

DO: Remedy Your Mistakes Promptly

The law prescribes certain standards that you need to meet when you sell consumer goods or services in New Zealand, set out in consumer guarantees. If you fail to meet one of these consumer guarantees, then it is your responsibility to provide an adequate remedy, in the form of a:

  • replacement;
  • repair; or
  • refund.

If a customer complains to you about a faulty product or a delivery that never arrived, you need to take reasonably prompt steps to fix the problem. Where appropriate, you then provide a remedy. You should:

  • respond to a customer complaint as soon as reasonably practicable;
  • hear out their complaint or issue, and determine what you can do to fix it;
  • apologise for any fault on your end; and
  • provide an appropriate remedy.

Furthermore, customers will appreciate your business if you take your consumer obligations seriously and make up for any mistakes appropriately. If you delay dealing with the problem and unnecessarily place blame on the customer, this will alienate your customers and also potentially breach your legal obligations.

Clearly outline in your returns policy how customers can apply to return their products, and in what situations they can do so. Additionally, include how they can contact you to lodge a complaint.

DON’T: Mislead Customers About Their Consumer Rights

Leading from the above point, customers have specific consumer rights when purchasing products or services from your business. If they come with you with a complaint about one of your products, such as it being faulty, do not attempt to:

  • mislead them about the existence of their rights;
  • deceive them about what their consumer rights are;
  • give them false information; or
  • use unfair sales tactics such as harassment or coercion. 

For instance, say that a customer has purchased an extended warranty with one of their products. Suppose they complain to you about a fault in the product within a reasonable timeframe. In that case, you cannot mislead them about your duty to give them a remedy because the extended warranty does not cover it. Consumer guarantees and other consumer rights apply regardless of what you tell your customers.

DO: Investigate Complaints

If a customer has a legitimate complaint or return, you need to give them an appropriate remedy. However, you should duly investigate every complaint or request for a return you receive to confirm that it is a valid problem. You only need to provide a remedy if you have legitimately failed to meet one of your consumer guarantees. 

For returns, ask customers to validate themselves with some proof of purchase. If they caused the fault themselves, it is unlikely that you would have to remedy the situation.

DON’T: Refuse to Deal With a Complaint or Return

You have to investigate every customer complaint or return request you receive and should not delay doing so without good reason. You cannot outright refuse to allow customer returns, such as putting up a sign that says “No Returns or Refunds”. Once you receive a complaint, you have to provide a solution in some way, whether that be:

  • giving the customer a suitable return, refund, or replacement;
  • apologising for any fault on your end;
  • amending your business practices to fix the problem a customer identified; or
  • explaining why you do not have to give them a remedy.

DO: Listen to Your Customers

You will get some rude complaints from difficult customers, but most customers are perfectly reasonable people who just want you to fix their legitimate problems. Complaints are a valid form of feedback that you can use to improve your business in areas that may be lacking. Customers return products because they were unsatisfied with them, and you can take this chance to remedy the issue in other products. 

Key Takeaways

Complaints and product returns are a part of doing business in the customer service industry. Develop an effective complaints process so that you and your employees know what is and is not appropriate for handling these issues. If you would like more information or help with handling customer returns and complaints, contact LegalVision’s regulatory and compliance lawyers on 0800 005 570 or fill out the form on this page.

Frequently Asked Questions

How should I respond to a customer complaint?

You should respond to a customer complaint as soon as reasonably practicable and listen to their problem. Investigate appropriately and provide a remedy if the situation calls for it.

Do I have to deal with every customer complaint my business receives?

You cannot refuse to deal with a complaint outright or delay unnecessarily. However, you do not have to fix every problem that a customer complains about if it is not a valid complaint.

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