After years of expectation, the new Decree 11,034/2022 was finally published in the Brazilian Official Gazette on April 06, 2022, establishing new guidelines for the country’s Customer Service (“SAC”) facility.
Until now, in addition to the basic precepts established by the Brazilian Customer Protection Code, the main Brazilian regulation on the subject was Decree No. 6523/2008, which is now repealed, and which has been in need of updating for some time, especially due to changes in the customer profile, the migration of daily communication to digital tools, and the substantial increase in customer claims about SAC in regulated sectors.
It is worth pointing out that, both then and now, the Decree was and is applicable only to those sectors of the economy whose activities are regulated by Federal Government rules, such as airlines, banks, telephone and electricity companies, insurance companies, health plans, and others.
The Decree aims to improve customer service by offering multiple communication channels, integrated with each other which, in an increasingly connected world, inevitably implies new and constant challenges to companies.
Some points of the new Decree are worth highlighting:
- Multiple, integrated channels: In comparison to the previous regulation, it is now noted that the very definition of SAC is no longer “the telephone answering service of the regulated service providers”, but rather “the answering service provided by various integrated channels of the regulated service providers” (art. 2). In addition, it is not only the expansion of the SAC regulation to other channels besides the telephone, but also the necessary integration among them; the customer is guaranteed, therefore, the right to be served in “at least one of the integrated service channels” (art. 4, paragraph 1). Another important amendment is that the customer will be able to follow up on his complaints/claims “in the various integrated service channels”, by means of numerical registration (art. 12, heading). The companies will be responsible, therefore, for making multiple access points available to the customer, to provide ample information about these channels (art. 4, paragraph 1) and, after receiving a certain complaint/claim, to adequately handle and integrate the information into all channels.
- Opening of Electronic channels: as the new Decree reinforces the multiplicity of communication channels, the electronic tool, so present in everyday life, is emphasized. There is no express rule imposing which digital channels must be made available, which will allow companies to be creative.
- Mandatory Requirement to maintain electronic customer servicer: despite the Decree’s enabling and encouraging the use of other channels, it is still mandatory to maintain the availability of access to the SAC by telephone (art. 4, paragraph 2).
- Mandatory human customer service: the service provided via telephone channel and performed by human beings, must comprise at least eight hours daily (art. 5, paragraph I), and it is up to the regulating entities to consider and eventually establish human customer service hours by telephone above that exceed this minimum limit (art. 5, sole paragraph).
- Response time: a significant amendment was also made with regard to the deadline for customer service response time. Before, it was established that complaints would be resolved within a maximum of five business days from registration, whereas now, “Customer complaints/claims will be responded to within seven calendar days from the date of registration” (art. 13, heading).
- Effectiveness: There is a specific chapter in the new Decree regarding the effectiveness of the SAC. The National Customer Protection Department (“SENACON”) and the Ministry of Justice must establish a methodology and implement tools to measure the effectiveness of the services provided, observing, at least, the following parameters: (i) number of claims (proportional to the number of customers or production units), (ii) resolution rate of claims (from the customer’s point of view), (iii) complaints rate at customer protection agencies and sector regulators, and (iv) degree of customer satisfaction (art. 15, paragraph 1). If low effectiveness is found, SENACON will be able to establish a human telephone answering service that remains open for longer than the obligatory eight hours a day (art. 15, paragraph 5), without prejudice to the sanctions of the Brazilian Customer Protection Code and the regulations of the regulatory entities.
- Free and available: the SAC will remain free (art. 3) and with uninterrupted availability twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week ( art. 4, heading).
The amendments pointed out above demonstrate that the new Decree is focused on ensuring adequate customer service. The increase in forms of service, combined with the concept of effectiveness and control mechanisms, make it clear that the legislator’s purpose was to provide and enable practical results for the customer.
Another relevant issue is that, although the Rule is applied to sectors of the economy whose activities are regulated by the Federal Government’s rules, it can certainly be used by customer protection agencies as a reference for good practices, so we encourage companies that operate in the B2C sector to revisit their practices in order to assess how effective their SAC services have been.
In times of increased scrutiny of ESG practices and the ubiquitous customer experience, there is no doubt that investing in service channels that deliver effective solutions, in addition to being a differential, is a source of business sustainability.
As the Decree will come into effect only 180 (one hundred and eighty) days after its publication in the Official Gazette, there is time and space for adaptations.