How Laboratories Can Benefit from Complaints

Customer upset on pink background and ready to complain about an ISO/IEC 17025 accredited laboratory.

You know the saying: Nobody likes a complainer. But even if you don’t like it when your laboratory receives complaints, there may be good reasons to embrace them when they come your way.

It seems to be human instinct to put up one’s guard on hearing a complaint. Customer complaints may initially seem unpleasant. But there are benefits to ISO/IEC 17025 accredited laboratories that may only come to light when a complaint is received and properly handled.

Requirements for Handling Complaints in Laboratories

ISO/IEC 17025 addresses requirements for handling complaints in section 7.9. When implemented as intended, this process provides an opportunity for the laboratory to determine the root cause of the issue that led to the grievance. That, in turn, can lead to changes that will prevent future laments of a similar nature.

Types of Complaints

A complaint may be due to a misunderstanding on the customer’s part. If you misunderstood a contract, addressing the customer’s complaint provides an opportunity to clarify language in the contact or to rephrase questions in the quoting process. If a customer misunderstands an issued report, this provides an opportunity to improve the presentation of data and related content. Such improvements should serve to prevent future customer misunderstandings.

A complaint may arise from a mistake in fulfilling a contract (for example, method selection or desired data points). Improvements in how contracts are documented will better inform technical personnel of customer needs. This can reduce the possibility of future mistakes related to contract fulfillment. Such a complaint may highlight the need to better train personnel to properly read the contract.

A complaint may result because of errors in data, such as data points, decisions, tolerances, or uncertainties. Improvements in data collection and transfer will minimize mistakes, not only in the data reported but also for appropriate uncertainty reporting. Moreover, addressing any issues in data transfer could prevent bigger issues.

Seeking Resolution, Not Confrontation

Clearly there are good reasons for laboratories to view complaints as opportunities to improve processes. Customers who complain typically are interested in resolution rather than confrontation. In the end, customers want to be able to trust the data contained in reports. And the laboratory wants customers who trust their data and continue purchasing their services.

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