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#1 ewhite

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Posted 22 April 2011 - 07:59 PM

Hello,

I have a few miscellanous customer complaint issues that I would like to resolve, and was wondering if anyone had any opinions on these matters...

The first is an issue involves dealing with customer "quality" complaints. In an effort to meet the requirements for SQF, we complete a "Root Cause Analysis" and "Corrective Action" worksheet for all customer complaints. The only problem is following these with intagible complaints such as "melted product", "icy flavor", etc. We check our retained samples to ensure this wasn't an issue from production, and then explain to the customer that this is a temperature senstitive product which we have little control over after it leaves our factory... With this being said, this leaves alot up to the imagination for what the "root cause" is and what we can do to prevent an intangible problem. We've considered contacting our vendors as most of the complaints are from one "brand", however it is also the biggest of them, so this may just be a numbers game. Does anyone working with frozen products have a solution for addressing such complaints?

A different issue is with customers reporting ambiguous foreign objects, agreeing to ship them to us, but several weeks later never receiving anything in the mail. How do you process a foreign material complaint with vague discriptors and no object?

Thanks again.



#2 Simon

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Posted 26 April 2011 - 06:38 PM

I got to watch the match so BUMP for ewhite. :smile:


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#3 Jason H.Z.C.

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Posted 27 April 2011 - 02:28 AM

Dear ewhite,

In my personal opinion.Once you recieve a complaint, the first thing need to do is investigation, but not root analysis. Some complaints maybe occur because of the out-of-specification of your processes. Some complaints maybe occur because of the misunderstanding.

So the first thing is checking if all cold chains under your control are in line with specification, including the transportation chain if the contract with your customer detailed you should be responsible for that. If you can demonstrate the successful control(e.g. temperature verification records, log-chart etc.), Then you also need prove recipe during your production is fine. If every thing is OK, you could send your customer with all evidence to demonstrate it is not your affair.

The foreign body issue are also similar. At least your customer should send you a picture to reflecting what the foreign body is. If you see a red wood piece in your product but no red wooden tool used in your factory, I think you should know maybe it is a misundrstanding.

So before do root cause analysis, you should investigate the issue firstly.

Only my five cents opinion,

Best regards,

Jason


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#4 mind over matter

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Posted 27 April 2011 - 08:30 AM

Do your procedures (ei; Handling of Potentially Unsafe Product, Corrections & Corrective Actions, and Product Withdrawal & Recall) say you have to do root cause analysis?

If you want to do a corrective action, then you should do RCA. After all complaint is from customer.


Edited by mind over matter, 27 April 2011 - 08:43 AM.


#5 ewhite

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Posted 27 April 2011 - 01:48 PM

Dear ewhite,

In my personal opinion.Once you recieve a complaint, the first thing need to do is investigation, but not root analysis. Some complaints maybe occur because of the out-of-specification of your processes. Some complaints maybe occur because of the misunderstanding.

So the first thing is checking if all cold chains under your control are in line with specification, including the transportation chain if the contract with your customer detailed you should be responsible for that. If you can demonstrate the successful control(e.g. temperature verification records, log-chart etc.), Then you also need prove recipe during your production is fine. If every thing is OK, you could send your customer with all evidence to demonstrate it is not your affair.

The foreign body issue are also similar. At least your customer should send you a picture to reflecting what the foreign body is. If you see a red wood piece in your product but no red wooden tool used in your factory, I think you should know maybe it is a misundrstanding.

So before do root cause analysis, you should investigate the issue firstly.

Only my five cents opinion,

Best regards,

Jason



Thank you for your comments. We do conduct our investigation first, and attach our documents (correct temperature control during processing, and shipping documents) with the complaint. Thus far, our records show that we had control up to the point of delivery. I think that is sufficient in terms of proving control on our part. However, since this is a reoccuring problem, and limited to only one of our vendors, I feel that corrective actions could be in order. Brainstorming with our Logistics Manager we came up with sending a letter to the vendor, notifying them of the issue. Aside from that I belive this issue is out of our control.

As for the foreign objects, I agree that we need the object (or at least a picture, although it can be very difficult to identify the orgins of an object from fragments shown in a printed picture) for the RCA. My issue is that our customers are placing the complaint, but we aren't receiving their objects, or even pictures for that matter. So now I have these open records of foreign object complaints that I'm not sure what to do with. I would like to investigate the matters further, if they are infact from us, or our suppliers. But without any evidence, I fear it's a waste of time.

One Final note, I think the underlying issue with both of these, is that we are trying to get our SQF level 3 certification, so perhaps I'm just being hypersensitive to these issues (assuming they truely are out of my control). I just don't want to be drilled down the line about why more actions werent taken.

Please let me know if anyone has any additional insight on these matters.

#6 mind over matter

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Posted 27 April 2011 - 04:10 PM

Remember that even though you performed your investigation and determined that your process is not at fault the customer’s perception is that you did something bad and they want you to listen and act to what they have to say. Yes, the customer is not always right, but the customer is always the customer.


Again, my advice RCA RCA RCA. Appropriate root cause analysis would lead to effective corrective action.

What did your recall committee do? What does your product recall procedure says? Did you try to have reasonable discussions with the customer to try to come up with a joint agreement on how to solve the problem?


Edited by mind over matter, 27 April 2011 - 04:29 PM.


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#7 ewhite

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Posted 27 April 2011 - 08:14 PM

Remember that even though you performed your investigation and determined that your process is not at fault the customer’s perception is that you did something bad and they want you to listen and act to what they have to say. Yes, the customer is not always right, but the customer is always the customer.


Again, my advice RCA RCA RCA. Appropriate root cause analysis would lead to effective corrective action.

What did your recall committee do? What does your product recall procedure says? Did you try to have reasonable discussions with the customer to try to come up with a joint agreement on how to solve the problem?


Mind over matter,

I appreciate your persistance, and agree completely, it doesn't do any good to tell the customer that it's not our fault. Additionally, I agree that the best practice is to do a RCA for all non-compliances, and finish off with Corrective Actions that address the Root Cause. This is a practice that we currently do, and I don't wish to abandon. However, I would like some additional insight on what an "appropriate" RCA is for these intangible circumstances.

Additionally, perhaps you could clarify your mention of the recall committee's involvement. Surely we are not going to recall products because a customer calls and reports that their frozen food has freezer burn, or appears to have melted. Of course we investigate the matter, and take actions if this occurred do to improper control measures, but if everything checks out with our records, the most likely cause is that the customer mishandled the product during or after their purchase, and at that point I do believe it's out of our control.
Similarly, our recall committee doesn't get involved until we have substantiated the incident. With the production date from the product we review our records to see if anything is out of the ordinary, or may have been overlooked prior to release. However, without the object (the "Cause" of the complaint), I don't see how we could even try to identify the "Root".

Please enlighten me if you have a different way of handling this.

Kind Regards,
ewhite

#8 Jason H.Z.C.

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Posted 28 April 2011 - 02:17 AM

Hi ewhite,

I have an idea to solve above two issues:

1,Cold chain control issue:

Best way to solve this problem is that you dispatch at least one your own staff to accompany the whole transportation process(including shippment) until the delivery, and at the step of delivery he can be the witness guy(By the way, you can also let one your employee worked in destination office to done this work). In addition, you can design a record template to let the witness guy and the representative of customer sign on and confirm the fine situation of your cold chain, as well as the inspection result of the sampled products.

However, of course it does increase your logistic cost. Maybe you can disccuss the additional fees with your customer.

Another method is to review the contract between your customer and your company. And make sure which part of logistics are your concerns. Because there are several default international trading treaty exist detailing different ways to divid the mutual responsibilities during shippment. You should check which one you are in line with.

2,Foreign body issue:

When auditing, you can show the exchanged emails between customer and you. In my opinion, if your customer compalined see foreign body in your products, but when you asking him what the foreign body is, he can not give you any evidence, if can not be named a complaint. Furthtermore, you can show the auditors your inspection records on filters,foreign body detectors, equipments integrity etc. to prove it is not your affair.

By the way, normally foreign body issue is serious in my country. Thus customers are always attaching a picture to tell us what they saw in the products.

Finally, I agree with you the recall/withdrawl normally triggered once your products are believed to be harmful for human health or illegality.

Best regards,

Jason


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#9 Cathy

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Posted 28 April 2011 - 11:33 AM

You should indicate in your complaint management program that 'credible complaints are investigated commensurate with the potential associated food safety / quality risk'. Document how you decide if you will investigate (record your decision and its basis each time) You are doing the right thing to watch for trends and try to determine complaints are valid. Document your efforts. Not every complaint requires an investigation and not every investigation ends up in understanding the root cause. For the foreign objects - you can close the complaint after a pre-determined amount of time if nothing is received. Document that it could not be verified.


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#10 ewhite

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Posted 28 April 2011 - 01:27 PM

Hi ewhite,

I have an idea to solve above two issues:

1,Cold chain control issue:

Best way to solve this problem is that you dispatch at least one your own staff to accompany the whole transportation process(including shippment) until the delivery, and at the step of delivery he can be the witness guy(By the way, you can also let one your employee worked in destination office to done this work). In addition, you can design a record template to let the witness guy and the representative of customer sign on and confirm the fine situation of your cold chain, as well as the inspection result of the sampled products.

However, of course it does increase your logistic cost. Maybe you can disccuss the additional fees with your customer.

Another method is to review the contract between your customer and your company. And make sure which part of logistics are your concerns. Because there are several default international trading treaty exist detailing different ways to divid the mutual responsibilities during shippment. You should check which one you are in line with.

2,Foreign body issue:

When auditing, you can show the exchanged emails between customer and you. In my opinion, if your customer compalined see foreign body in your products, but when you asking him what the foreign body is, he can not give you any evidence, if can not be named a complaint. Furthtermore, you can show the auditors your inspection records on filters,foreign body detectors, equipments integrity etc. to prove it is not your affair.

By the way, normally foreign body issue is serious in my country. Thus customers are always attaching a picture to tell us what they saw in the products.

Finally, I agree with you the recall/withdrawl normally triggered once your products are believed to be harmful for human health or illegality.

Best regards,

Jason


I will bring up the idea of "auditing" our transportation chain to our logistics manager, and see if he thinks this is something we could do. At minimum we will review our contracts and make sure that our logistic concerns are adequately addressed.

As for the second issue, we will add more detail to our foreign body investigation procedure, including Cathy's suggested "credability clause". I think this will help clear up how we handle similiar issues in the future.

Thanks for all of your help! :thumbup:

#11 Antores

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Posted 28 April 2011 - 02:13 PM

Ewithe.

I don’t think you need to overwork this part of the customer complaints. Although I think a well done Root Cause Analysis can help you find and solve the problem of almost any issue, even those that you consider “intangible” , not every complain deserves or require a RCA.

My suggestion is that first, you should develop a procedure for “Filtering” complains that will require RCA. No every complain justifies a RCA. You can use a matrix that includes for instance Severity and Frequency. For those infrequent and no severe issues you can just make a quick investigation or report, I mean, If you sell ice cream, is very possible that at least one gets melted before reaching the customer.. but is this really critical? it is worth the time? ....anything could have happed in the distribution chain.

On the other hand, if you start getting many events of melted ice cream, then you have a problem that requires a full RCA.

Same for the foreign object. As per my experience with this, many customer “bite” foreign objects when eating a product, but the objects actually comes from other sources. For instance that are eating other food together and the object comes from that other food, or sometime even small pieces of their own teeth or even a grain of sand transfered from soiled hands feels like a huge glass when smashed between your teeth. That may be the reason why they never find or send the actual object. So we get to the same point, if you get one single severe event, such as actual foreign object that your customer can actually photograph or send you, that more likely came from your factory and requires a CAR. Or, if you have many compliant from people that “feel” something but cannot find it, that may represent an issue that requires a CAR as well, it may be as simple as you have hard ice particles in the soft ice cream that feels like “rocks” (then you have an issue with the process) or you may have cross contamination from very small particles, such as sand…

The important thing for SQF requirements is to have a clear process for determining when you are going to do a CAR or no, and have a documented procedure for defining this (e.g. More than 3 times in a week/or month, More than $ value of goods, critical for health or business….etc)

While customer complaint has an enormous value for Quality and Process Improvement, you cannot chase after every little complaint. Once I asked to get my coffee to be changed 3 times at Dunking Donuts because it tasted really bad… Just for realizing hours later that I was sick, and that was causing me to get a bitter taste on my food…. I hope Dunking Donuts didn’t start a CAR on my complain because after much time and money spent to get it solve, they would still scratching their heads….



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#12 mind over matter

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Posted 29 April 2011 - 04:02 PM

Please enlighten me if you have a different way of handling this.

1) Many times, the customer is no right, and is part of the relationship for the supplier to educate the customer.

2) Again, I'll ask you this. Did you try to have reasonable discussions with the customer to try to come up with a joint agreement on how to solve the problem? Seek their suggestions. Typically, people are in love with their own ideas. Get people to do things your way while making them believe it was their idea.





#13 ewhite

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Posted 29 April 2011 - 04:20 PM

1) Many times, the customer is no right, and is part of the relationship for the supplier to educate the customer.

2) Again, I'll ask you this. Did you try to have reasonable discussions with the customer to try to come up with a joint agreement on how to solve the problem? Seek their suggestions. Typically, people are in love with their own ideas. Get people to do things your way while making them believe it was their idea.





Thank you for the follow-up, and enlightenment :biggrin:


Now I see what you're saying... and yes, I do always try to engage in discussions with the consumer. Particularly, educating them about best practices for purchasing frozen foods, as well as explaining that our product is especially sensitive, and therefore may melt faster, and/or suffer a loss of quality quicker than other frozen foods purchased. Additionally, I would agree that consumers do seem to appreciate the explanation, and conversation.

#14 ewhite

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Posted 29 April 2011 - 05:00 PM

Ewithe.

I don’t think you need to overwork this part of the customer complaints. Although I think a well done Root Cause Analysis can help you find and solve the problem of almost any issue, even those that you consider “intangible” , not every complain deserves or require a RCA.

My suggestion is that first, you should develop a procedure for “Filtering” complains that will require RCA. No every complain justifies a RCA. You can use a matrix that includes for instance Severity and Frequency. For those infrequent and no severe issues you can just make a quick investigation or report, I mean, If you sell ice cream, is very possible that at least one gets melted before reaching the customer.. but is this really critical? it is worth the time? ....anything could have happed in the distribution chain.

On the other hand, if you start getting many events of melted ice cream, then you have a problem that requires a full RCA.

Same for the foreign object. As per my experience with this, many customer “bite” foreign objects when eating a product, but the objects actually comes from other sources. For instance that are eating other food together and the object comes from that other food, or sometime even small pieces of their own teeth or even a grain of sand transfered from soiled hands feels like a huge glass when smashed between your teeth. That may be the reason why they never find or send the actual object. So we get to the same point, if you get one single severe event, such as actual foreign object that your customer can actually photograph or send you, that more likely came from your factory and requires a CAR. Or, if you have many compliant from people that “feel” something but cannot find it, that may represent an issue that requires a CAR as well, it may be as simple as you have hard ice particles in the soft ice cream that feels like “rocks” (then you have an issue with the process) or you may have cross contamination from very small particles, such as sand…

The important thing for SQF requirements is to have a clear process for determining when you are going to do a CAR or no, and have a documented procedure for defining this (e.g. More than 3 times in a week/or month, More than $ value of goods, critical for health or business….etc)

While customer complaint has an enormous value for Quality and Process Improvement, you cannot chase after every little complaint. Once I asked to get my coffee to be changed 3 times at Dunking Donuts because it tasted really bad… Just for realizing hours later that I was sick, and that was causing me to get a bitter taste on my food…. I hope Dunking Donuts didn’t start a CAR on my complain because after much time and money spent to get it solve, they would still scratching their heads….




I like that you added, not every complaint "deserves a RCA", and I think that's an important meassage. Similiar to your Dunkin Dounuts story, there are incidents when the customer (knowingly or not) makes a false complaint. Still, I wanted to make sure that I handled these cases in a way that was respectable to the customer, and didn't make it look like we were choosing to not take the complaints seriously. As a few of you have mentioned, I think defining the criteria for "reasonable" complaints, in our SOP for customer complaints, will clarify how we handle ambiguous complaints and why. Additionally, I think trending is also useful to show wheither or not something is an isolated incident.

Thank you for the great discussion! :thumbup:

#15 mind over matter

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Posted 30 April 2011 - 03:49 AM

I like that you added, not every complaint "deserves a RCA", and I think that's an important meassage. Similiar to your Dunkin Dounuts story, there are incidents when the customer (knowingly or not) makes a false complaint.

Once you received complaint from customer, you have to determine root cause of the complaint and the corresponding contingent action to be taken, where applicable. If the complaint is valid, then you have to implement contingent action and advise the customer on the contingent action taken. If customer accepts action taken, tag complaint as closed. If not, do alternative course of action (evaluate further complaint for the necessary root cause analysis and appropriate corrective action) until compliant is closed.

There are occasions that you need not to write up a Root Cause and Corrective Action e.g. every time one of your customers complained about your prices; Antores' dunkin donut story, etc. However, be careful in validating the complaint especially if the issue is quality or food safety related, it may warrant root cause analysis.

Edited by mind over matter, 30 April 2011 - 03:50 AM.


#16 GMO

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Posted 30 April 2011 - 08:32 PM

Hmm, I'm guessing none of you fine folk have worked for companies making tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of products a minute? Every complaint gets a RCA? Wow!

Now IMO, every foreign matter complaint should be investigated and a root cause identified if possible. Your root cause might, however, be a belief that the complaint is spurious and resulted from post process contamination - hence the action is to continue to monitor for similar complaints in case there is a malicious contamination issue.

There will always be "I don't like it" complaints though; ie complaints which are due to perception not a 'fault'. Personally I weed these out unless there is a particular adverse trend.

This is surely why trend analysis is important? To avoid investigating every little thing and missing the big picture? Sometimes it pays to investigate the trend and not the incidence.



#17 mind over matter

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Posted 02 May 2011 - 12:40 PM

Hmm, I'm guessing none of you fine folk have worked for companies making tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of products a minute? Every complaint gets a RCA? Wow!

Now IMO, every foreign matter complaint should be investigated and a root cause identified if possible. Your root cause might, however, be a belief that the complaint is spurious and resulted from post process contamination - hence the action is to continue to monitor for similar complaints in case there is a malicious contamination issue.

There will always be "I don't like it" complaints though; ie complaints which are due to perception not a 'fault'. Personally I weed these out unless there is a particular adverse trend.

This is surely why trend analysis is important? To avoid investigating every little thing and missing the big picture? Sometimes it pays to investigate the trend and not the incidence.

I have to agree with this assuiming there is no problem with the process.




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