I need to do WHAT Complaints Handling?
Making Canada’s new food rules work for your business
Consumer Complaints Handling
Under Canada’s new Safe Food for Canadians Regulations food businesses that sell food across provincial boundaries, or import or export food, will need a licence to conduct business. Without a licence, your products could be detained at your cost or recalled. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) now has the authority to impose recalls; the CFIA also has significantly increased the size of fines it can impose on a business. This means that you will need a licence, and to get a licence you need to meet Canada’s new food safety program requirements.
One of the new requirements for obtaining a licence is having a documented food complaint program that:
- Ensures a competent person is receiving, logging, and categorizing each complaint in a timely manner
- Describes how complaints are reviewed, including comparing foods with the same lot code or similar production dates/times
- Identifies how risk is taken into account when investigating a complaint
- Complaints involving significant risks to health are always given highest priority
- Documents when and how you review and update the complaints procedure
The complaints logging, review, and resolution must include:
- Date the complaint was received
- Name, address, telephone number(s), e-mail of the complainant
- Problem reported
- Common name of the food, package type and size and the lot code or other unique identifier
- Results of the investigation, including the
- Name and title of the person responsible for investigating the complaint
- Date and time of the investigation
- Investigation findings, such as what the problem is, how it happened, source of the problem, any other food that may be affected and reason
- Actions taken based on the investigation findings, including any
- Action taken on the affected food and any other potentially affected food, the date on which it was taken, and the person responsible
- Action taken to correct the source of the problem, the date on which it was taken, and the person responsible
- Details on the notification to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency or other regulated parties (if applicable)
You must keep the record for at least two years after the day on which you completed the actions you took as a result of the investigation.
SO – what does this really mean?
While this might seem like another bureaucratic burden, tracking and trending these complaints can actually help your business grow, improve the quality and safety of your products, and create a new level of customer confidence in your products. The system you put in place does not have to be complex or expensive to be effective. How advanced, connected, and automated you wish this system to be is entirely up to you.
Consumer contact management can be as simple as a spreadsheet, or as sophisticated as a full-systems approach to data and information management that connects websites and call centre contact information to your business model. For some smaller businesses who receive only a relatively small number of contacts in a month, the spreadsheet approach, when managed carefully, can fully meet the requirements of the new regulations.
Logging complaints and trending them will help you identify new opportunities for products, clearer labels, and better translations. For example, if you get a series of complaints about how much sugar is in your products, you might want to consider offering a reduced-sugar option. If you receive a cluster of complaints about poor seals on a product, you might want to consider equipment options to increase customer satisfaction with your product. By responding to each contact with a brief personal thank you for raising the matter and including how the issue was resolved, you will dramatically increase brand loyalty amongst your customers. Trending issues can also help identify training needs with your staff. Having written records can help save time for future complaint investigations.
Trending complaints can be done by category – products of similar risk – or by individual products themselves. How you choose to do this will depend on things like how many individual cases/cartons of a product are sold. For smaller businesses with more categories than brands, it may make more sense to trend issues with categories rather than individual brands or products. You may want to trend products based on production lines. It is important to set up a trending system that will detect patterns or clusters of issues that suits your business model.
Measuring success regarding complaints reduction can also be relatively simple. One tool that is relatively straight forward is the “complaints per million” measurement. What the “million” is depends on your business. It could be million cases, million cartons, million kg. Typically “complaints per million” measurements look at sales in that month that the complaint relates too. But as this is a measurement that is designed to help show progress over time, how many weeks you wish to include in your program is entirely up to you. It just needs to be consistent and meaningful to help you with trending your quality and safety programs. By letting your staff know how well complaints are tracking will help instil a quality culture in your business. Understanding how well they are doing always helps staff understand how those extra steps to do things right results in happier customers.
Still looking for help in setting up a complaints handling procedure? Please contact [email protected]
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