Why stricter consumer laws are a game-changer for Australian businesses

As the national and executive state governments work together to tighten up legislation across Australia, many businesses and consumers will have noted significant changes to consumer laws announced last November by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).

Essentially, the ACCC-led changes, which come into effect in June 2023, are about providing enhanced protections for consumers – offering clarity around basic consumer guarantees, guidance on stricter complaints handling, and also better education for businesses and consumers around their rights and obligations.

As a business process outsourcer which is obsessed about improving the customer journey for our clients, we welcome the introduction of the ACCC’s new rights and guarantees. They shine a light on the correct ways of handling not only customer complaints, but the customer experience overall.

However, whilst many companies appear to be focused on complaints handling to address the new ACCC resolution, we know some have fallen behind and may not meet this June’s deadline.

Customer complaints – friend or foe?

Following the release of the guidance nearly six months ago, one of the big discussion points we’ve addressed here at Sigma Connected has been about what it means for the end-to-end customer journey and how Australian businesses can use our extensive experience in the UK and South Africa to benefit them.

Whilst there are a variety of options to consider around ways to enhance the customer experience, it’s clear that with so many more consumer protection triggers, that businesses must be on their game more than ever, especially around complaints which let’s face it, nobody loves dealing with.

More and more forward-thinking and macro-aware organisations are now considering outsourcing their customer complaints work. They rightly see this as a way which allows them to focus on their core business, whilst being reassured that the customer complaint side, and indeed their reputation, is in safe hands.

However, a key point here is about how complaints are handled. There is certainly a right way and a wrong way but what successful companies can see, is that complaints which are handled properly feed back into the business and provide customer-led intelligence which can input into a whole host of decisions, including around products, pricing and campaigns.

Ultimately, well-handled complaints can impact brand perception in a positive way as well as growth, a fact backed up by the statistic that around 73% of customers say that an easy resolution to their complaint is what impacts their satisfaction the most.

To give an example, bringing in outsourced expertise to work on a specific brief is far more than just handling customer complaints or queries. What it allows us to do is to dive deeper into complaints, step back with a clear view to understand where the blockages are, understand what is manifesting and making a situation worse, and vitally, map the process from start to finish to ultimately find solutions and make improvements.

More than anything, the new consumer laws here in Australia will accelerate consumer rights and provide more guarantees around quality. That needs businesses to be on top of their game around their customer care policies as failure to do so will spell trouble not only reputationally, but commercially too.

It’s a situation no boards or leadership teams will want to be in, so treating complainants as friends, not foes, whilst understanding how complaints can feed into the success of a business, really can make a lasting difference.

About the author

Based in Sigma Connected’s headquarters in Brisbane, Jason Cowan is our Regional Managing Director for Australia. Readers can connect with Jason on LinkedIn.


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