CBI Scene Blog

Strategies for Deploying and Using Life Sciences Product Complaint Thresholds

Posted by Sabrina Delio on Jun 7, 2018 2:04:50 PM

Digital technology has transformed the health care space. Bleeding-edge hardware and software solutions have streamlined patient information-sharing activities, refined clinical workflows and facilitated the creation and deployment of the consumer-friendly value-based care methodologies. This development is expected to continue over the coming years, as an estimated 88 percent of health care chief information officers intend to either boost or maintain current IT investment levels, according to research from KPMG.

However, this advancement has not come without hardship. While advanced technology has lain the groundwork for wide-scale improvement in the health care sector, it has also created various operational complications.

Administrators working in customer complaint management departments are among those bearing the brunt of technological progress. Device-equipped patients now have the ability to offer feedback instantaneously via numerous digital channels. Many of these individuals take advantage of this capability. For instance, customer service specialists for the California Department of Health and Human Services processed almost 56,000 complaints in 2016, the latest year for which data was available. Approximately 35 percent of these inquiries were submitted online. For health care providers, pharmaceutical firms and device makers, complaint volumes are even higher due to the prevalence social media platforms, where 67 percent of customers go to seek assistance when product or service issues occur, analysts for J.D. Power and Associates found.

How can businesses in the healthcare space possibly meet these customer engagement expectations? Implementing complaint thresholds is an effective technique. Customer service personnel leverage engagement statistics to determine base levels for complaint escalation. This approach saves time, money and facilitates product improvement. Businesses in the healthcare arena looking to develop and deploy actionable complaint thresholds can do so by using these three strategies:

1. Measuring customer engagement

Complaint thresholds work only when based on accurate customer engagement data. This requirement necessitates the collection and analysis of complaint data across multiple channels, including online sources such as social media. For digital conduits of this kind, gathering the necessary data is as easy as logging into a corporate user profile and exporting information automatically stored in the engagement section.

That said, the process increases in difficulty when it comes to categorizing complaints. Some tools might allow for keyword searches, while others may require manual sorting. Of course, this work seems reasonable compared to the effort required to sort through inquiries received via fax or mail.
In the end, however, a historical analysis makes it easy to establish workable complaint thresholds. Additionally, the process of collecting and analyzing complaints becomes more manageable, for customer service teams can collect and categorize feedback piecemeal.

2. Addressing complaint validation

With viable complaint thresholds established, health care enterprises deal with the issue of validation. While these response minimums alone can signify that potential product or service issues exist, organizations should gain additional confirmation through thorough investigation. This task will most likely involve interacting with consumers and diving into the minutiae of multiple complaints. These activities often require one-on-one customer engagement, which can pose problems for organizations, depending on the medium.

For matters received via fax or mail, business-to-consumer communication usually takes place over closed channels, where it easier for companies to meet the patient privacy protections enshrined in federal law. However, interactions that unfold on social media and other public forums create the risk for unintended privacy breaches. For this reason, complaint management personnel should move public-facing communications into direct messaging channels.

3. Finding solutions

Following investigatory activities, health care companies can determine whether internal improvement efforts are required. In the event that such initiatives are not required, customer service teams can factor related products or services out of future complaint threshold oversight workflows and formulate official responses for correcting misconceptions. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration advised firms in the healthcare industry to keep these replies short and toneless, as well as post related research that rebuts incorrect impressions. The FDA also recommended documenting all complaint-handling processes, including those related to the development of complaint thresholds.

Health care providers, pharmaceutical firms and device makers that embrace complaint thresholds and the ancillary strategies discussed above will likely find themselves allocating fewer resources to customer service operations while fostering product and service improvement through meaningful, data-backed user engagement.


As the digital landscape continues to evolve, it is more important than ever for industry thought leaders to benchmark with their peers and discuss innovative best practices for measuring the effectiveness of their complaint handling system. Don't miss the chance to compare thresholds, analyze the impact of social media, take a deep dive into post-market safety reporting for combination products and more at CBI's Product Complaints Congress this June.