How could corporate social responsibility improve a company's service quality? Does an organization applying CSR ethical practices meet current and future societal expectations (of stakeholders such as customers, employees, neighbors, etc.)?
The CSR approach aims to build stakeholder trust around an organization, based on environmental, social (E&S) concerns and pressure from consumer associations, customers, media and communities.
Integrating complaints management into the CSR strategy means transforming power relationships into stakeholder opportunities. At the same time, it improves the quality of service provided by employees for the benefit of customers and the image of companies in the eyes of the public.

Activist movements are boycotting the negative social and environmental effects of companies' production systems, in favor of a sustainable development logic. CSR initiatives undertaken by companies allow them to respond to the pressing demands of the markets and the risks of stricter regulation of their activity following consumer complaints. How can this voluntary CSR policy be applied to the proper management of claims and complaints made by customers and employees? A major issue affecting their reputation and jeopardizing the legitimacy of their actions…

CSR relationship and stakeholder complaint management

Issues of complaints and their repercussions

It is no longer a secret that managing complaints well increases customer satisfaction. Complaints are useful; they allow us to better understand the needs of customers and to correct errors in the understanding of the parties involved. Complaint management is a powerful way to establish a long-term relationship of trust with its customers by preventing probable dissatisfaction and by positioning itself in a better quality management.

This complaint management strategy determines whether or not customers return, their degree of commitment (recommendation) and finally their loyalty to a brand or organization. The mechanism for managing customer complaints internally can be broken down as follows

  1. (upstream) definition of strategies and proposed solutions for specific problems
  2. reception and recording of all criticism (in a systematic and organized way)
  3. Forwarding and processing of complaints by department
  4. extraction of positive effects
  5. analysis and removal of the reason for dissatisfaction.
    The objective of complaint management is to reduce the risk of errors and to ensure that customers are satisfied overall, so that they do not turn away from a company out of frustration.
    This management must be well organized and anticipate problems with a product or service in the future. The margin of error is never zero, the real challenge of managing customer dissatisfaction (even in the best companies) is to anticipate the expectations and needs of each of its customers.

Effective complaint management also looks at the impact of a company's actions on its employees and local communities, giving a company the privilege of maintaining a good relationship with its network of customers and partners (even if something goes wrong). The ISO 9001:2015 standard provides excellent details on how to manage complaints and what actions to take within existing means.


CSR and sustainable development

A concept that originated in the middle of the last century in the Anglo-Saxon countries of the North, CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) was later adopted by European companies towards the end of the 20th century. The implementation of a CSR strategy must consider the global performance of each organization, under three main areas of action, environmental, economic and societal.

Applying the CSR policy consists in making companies responsible by contributing to the impact of their activities, in the social and human dimension, but also from the environmental point of view (E&S). Today, every company is responsible towards its stakeholders, i.e. its customers, employees, civil society, local populations, public authorities, suppliers, etc.

In Africa in general, the concept of CSR and its ethical scope is still emerging: public officials and business leaders are accustomed to a culture of patronage (community social investment).
Many companies provide aid in the field of health or education and implement CSR approaches without formalizing them. Corporate social responsibility can be formalized through better job management and the prevention or awareness of discrimination in the workplace. It can also include actions in favor of health and safety, for example to improve working conditions in companies.

Why adopt a CSR strategy in complaint management mechanisms?

Benefits of CSR strategy in complaints management

Today, CSR communications have become an integral part of a company's stakeholder relationship management. The application and dissemination of CSR is hampered by stakeholders' lack of understanding of the benefits and scope of this key sustainability concept.

                      Socialprotection of the company's legitimacy and existence (in the face of social pressures) productive relations between the media, suppliers, peers, customers and local communities

Commercial and Marketing
fair information and marketing practices among consumers (after-sales service, assistance, respect for privacy data)customer pride (who find their relationship with a company improved); enhanced proximity to customersimproved public reputation with a positive image of the brandattraction and loyalty of customers
Human resources and staffprotection of the health and safety of employeesstrengthening of the involvement of the personnel, more mobilizationproductive relations between its employees, its customers or its usersattraction and retention of the employees

The CSR policy leads to the creation of great sources of innovation for the company thanks to a useful and reinforced monitoring of CSR practices, so that the company can anticipate changes. Communication on CSR informs consumers and helps build the company's social legitimacy. However, the CSR policy alone does not guarantee the company's success: adding a specific communication policy such as complaint management is unavoidable. It offers transparency on the social effort deployed by the company in the direction of sustainable development actions.

Objectives of good complaints management and CSR ethics strategy

Dealing with negative feedback from stakeholders involves good management within the company. How to transform a complaint into an opportunity? The voluntary approach of corporate social responsibility towards a commitment and an ethical behavior allows to better consider the expectations of the different actors of the economy, especially those expressed by customers and consumers.
Consequently, a CSR ethics charter will be distributed to customers, implemented among employees and shared with service providers and suppliers. This charter underlines the major points with the aim of sharing good practices on the good management of complaints:

  • fair commercial relations formalized by contracts, which guarantee the respect of the rights and duties of each party
  • treatment and respect of the customer/consumer to establish a relationship of trust between the company and its target (better transparency towards consumers)
  • listening and exchange of good practices between employees (participative management)
  • implications for change in local communities, improvement of living standards.

How to improve complaints management?

Good practice in complaint management is part of an ethical approach, which aims for example to keep promises, to listen actively without interrupting and to understand the content of their complaints (focus on the facts and not on the unhappy experience and emotions), to remain courteous in all circumstances when dealing with out-of-control customers.

Customer service, including complaint management, begins with the first contact between a customer and an employee of a company. Too many organizational leaders make the mistake of considering that this service ends after a service is provided or a product is purchased. Providing quality service involves all employees who interact with a customer, including quality after-sales service. Successful complaint management is synonymous with continued brand awareness and customer loyalty.

To this end, a company that wants to stand out exceeds the expectations of its partners, clearly publishes its after-sales service policy, invests in the training of its operators and telephonists, and federates its workers in the search for solutions. In this logic, the same discourse will be the object of a concerted effort, applicable to all employees (i.e. a recommended approach).

Corporate social responsibility and organizational management

What are the complaint management processes?

Smooth management of complaints from dissatisfied customers consists of dealing with their criticisms, who do not hesitate to relay their dissatisfaction via email, telephone, social networks or even by mail. Dealing with these customer or consumer complaints requires good service quality management:

  • Where to register complaints?
  • Which department and to whom should the various complaints be forwarded?
  • How to react to customer criticism?

These are one or more communication channels through which companies proactively, quickly and professionally deal with the problems and concerns of their customers. Customers can make their requests heard through the operational complaint resolution mechanisms implemented in a company.

These processes can be summarized in a few points:

  • empowering employees (especially for quick and effective interventions)
  • define the limits of intervention in the procedures
  • draw up a recommended approach based on the solutions found in team meetings and by remembering the simulated scenarios. On the one hand, there are responses to immediate emergency situations and on the other, responses to a problem to be applied in the long term to avoid the same situation.
  • create a charter of good conduct to demonstrate the courtesy of the staff towards the person they are dealing with. For example, this involves establishing targeted formulas for greeting and thanking the customer, announcing the timeframe for processing the complaint through the various departments, asking about customer satisfaction and ensuring that everything is back in order…

These mechanisms for managing customer complaints are very well adapted to the issues of complaints from a company's staff or its local environment.

Relationship between SDO 2015 and CSR

The social responsibility of an organization, its tools, its principles, the themes addressed are part of the 7 major themes of the 17 SDGs Sustainable Development Goals signed in 2015 of the UN in New York.

These general objectives of economic and social development must guarantee prosperity for all through four major dimensions of sustainable development: social, economic, environmental and cultural:

  • well-being and health
  • decent work and economic growth
  • responsible consumption and production
  • industry, innovation and infrastructure.

Service quality management should not be left out of the 2015 SDGs and CSR policy, as this topic involves several of the 17 SDG priorities and the CSR or social responsibility concept.

Is there a CSR standard for complaint management?

Is the proper management of complaints a concern for socially responsible behavior? The CSR standard Corporate Social Responsibility is a concept that implies for each company to comply with the issues and objectives of sustainable development. The latest version of ISO 26000:2010 dates from 2017.

The ISO 26000 standard clearly defines the strategic approach of the CSR policy, integrating in companies the concepts of social responsibility and sustainable development.
The ISO 26000 CSR standard helps companies and their managers to behave responsibly towards consumers who may attempt actions. From a simple comment on social media, a consumer can go as far as boycotting an organization, telling their friends and family. Thanks to the recommendations of ISO CSR 26000, companies have guidelines in the proper management of complaints with responsible behavior without risking losing their potential customers.

Indeed, the ISO 26000 standard is based on key principles as the basis of socially responsible behavior:

  • transparency
  • respect for human rights
  • respect for the law and the interests of stakeholders
  • respect for international standards (of social and ethical behavior).

The objective of this ISO CSR standard is to provide guidance to organizations regardless of size, sector or legal form to help them improve various aspects of their corporate social responsibility. Companies are encouraged to go beyond the regulatory framework set by law and contribute to sustainable development. ISO 2600 was not designed for certification or regulatory purposes. There are no requirements in this standard, it is intended to demonstrate corporate social responsibility initiatives to the public.
ISO 26000 calls on organizations to demonstrate corporate responsibility, which translates into a flexible framework to improve stakeholder and customer satisfaction and optimize their ability to operate. These companies must then obtain a social license to operate, even if their mission does not necessarily focus on sustainable development.

Apart from ISO 26000, other social standards exist, including:

  • SA8000
  • ICS
  • BSCI
  • WRAP.

The voluntary commitment of companies to adopt the CSR policy in the complaint management mechanisms is based on the new decision criteria. This policy and its ISO standard is based primarily on ethical criteria and socially responsible behavior.

Beyond communicating as clearly as possible the key elements of its ethical practices, the company must seek to manage complaints in the ethical dimension of CSR objectives. Consumers and employees alike are increasingly sensitive to the image of a responsible company. Complaint management processes and CSR practices reconcile the search for a better image with greater profitability.

Trust Extrend Consulting to accompany you in your CSR approach in Madagascar. Take advantage of our experience to implement a CSR strategy in your complaint management through several actions

  • social audit and implementation of CSR management systems to adapt CSR practices to local socio-cultural realities
  • operational audit on the internal handling of complaints
  • training on ISO 26000 and ISO 9001:2015 standards, on good social practices and on the normative practice of handling customer complaints
  • monitoring and evaluation of projects to ensure full transparency.