CRM, GFSI, TQM, QM or QA – a lot of acronyms that stand for opportunities within food processing companies. Each of them stands for some sort combined “business performance event”, like decathlons and triathlons stand for “combined athletics events”. These combined events are comprised of different disciplines and the winners are normally not the ones that are the best in any one of them, but those that are above average in each of them. Customer complaint management and tracking is one of the disciplines they have in common.
Food Processing companies as well as prospects are budgeting investments to increase their competitiveness for the near future this time of the year. With sales managers, business owners and QA people calling me for advice, the common theme among them all is the desire to better manage their customer communication, especially complaints. This need stems from sales managers that want to plan action that allows to retain customers on the verge of abandoning ship and QA managers that need to have records and analysis of such data for their GFSI certification (SQF, BRC, etc).
Complaint tracking can be done in a structured way. Customer complaint tracking systems as they come with some food industry specific ERP-Systems allow you to capture the natural conversation via notes, attach pictures or other external documents to support the claims customers have up to the resolution of the dispute via a RGA (Return Goods Authorization), a credit or simply a dismissal of that claim. Each step in the process can be allocated to other people that are notified when a new complain appears in their task list. Time spend working the claim from receipt to resolution is tracked, and the core reason of the dispute can be clearly categorized for later evaluations. Typical main groupings are ‘Quality’ (Production Performance), ‘Administration’ (Errors in the office) and ‘Logistics’ (issues that occur between dispatch and receipt by the customer).
These issues can be further refined to allocate an area or a product category, product code etc., so that each of these tickets can be evaluated and analyzed to find common denominators and systemic issues. Proper analysis can indicate which processes are not 100% reliable, which people need further training and where the opportunities are to increase customer retention and eliminate errors within the organization.
Especially in commodity markets, companies can only compete by doing things more efficient and more effective with the least amount of errors possible. A properly managed complaint tracking and management allows management to understand the opportunities within their own organization and their customer base towards reduced costs and increased profits.