Information for front line staff

By Donald Carter,2014-05-06 12:32
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Information for front line staff

    Information for front line staff

    Complaint handling systems are an important element of quality customer service. To improve complaint handling for the customer all front line offices of government agencies will be equipped to handle complaints.

    Front line staff have an important role to play in complaint handling.

    The following pages are designed to be included with information about your own organisation’s

    complaint handling system as a guide for front line

    complaint handling. They can be a useful basis for

    the front line staff training, essential for your


    What is a complaint handling system?

    A complaint handling system is an organised way of responding to, recording, reporting and using complaints to improve service to customers.

    It includes procedures for customers to make complaints, guidelines for staff to resolve complaints and provides information to managers and staff that can assist them to prevent customer dissatisfaction happening in the future.

    Why have a complaint handling system?

    Customers often judge organisations by the way they handle complaints.

    An effective complaints handling system is an essential part of providing quality public sector service.

Benefits to your organisation:

    ; identifying areas that need improvement

    ; creating a second chance to provide service and

    satisfaction to dissatisfied clients

    ; providing an opportunity to strengthen public support

    for your organisation

    ; assisting in planning and allocation of resources

    The Complaint Handling Model

    Front Line Complaint Handling

    ; staff empowered with clear delegations

    to resolve complaints wherever possible

    at first contact

    ; staff log complaint details for later analysis

    Internal Review or Investigation

    ; more senior staff or designated complaint

     officer reviews/investigates unresolved


     Independent Review

    ; still unresolved complaints

     referred externally, eg.

     - alternative dispute

     resolution procedure

     (such as mediation) tried

     - complaint referred to

     external complaint

     agency (such as


    - complainant

     informed of

     appeal procedure

     or other legal


    Why do people complain?

    The first and obvious reason why people complain is because they are unhappy.

Some reasons customers complain:

    ; Poor communication

    ; Insufficient information about services or policies of

    government (or non-government) organisations

What is a complaint?

    ; An expression of dissatisfaction with the

    organisation’s policies, procedures, charges,

    employees, agents, quality of service or products

    ; An opportunity for service recovery


    Sometimes resolving the complaint involves:

    ; Giving more information

    ; Providing an explanation

    ; Suggesting a solution

    ; Expressing empathy and understanding where there

    is no solution

    ; Regardless of rights and wrongs, an apology can

    sometimes work wonders

    The role of front line staff

    An important part of your job is responding to and resolving complaints. How you act when a customer complains to you is important.

The customer wants:

    ; to be taken seriously

    ; to be treated with respect and not to be judged

    ; immediate action

    ; to clear the problem so it never happens again

    ; to be listened to

What you can do

    ; Make it easy for unhappy customers to tell you what

    the problem is.

    ; Listen carefully. Arrange for sign/language

    interpreters or advocates if required.

    ; Handle complaints quickly, within established

    timeframes, and in a friendly manner.

    ; Be positive and focus on solving the problem rather

    than blaming or finding fault.

    ; Offer solutions which you are able to deliver.

    ; Take responsibility for solving the problem on the

    spot if possible.

    ; Record the complaint.

    ; Pass the information on to the appropriate section/


    Responding to a complaint

    Basic Principles

; Allow the complainant to be heard

    ; Make the complainant feel understood

    ; Make the complainant feel respected

    ; Provide an explanation or information

    ; Offer an apology

    ; Take action ASAP

    Verbal Complaints

; Listen to the customer courteously

    ; Repeat your understanding of the problem back to

    the customer to check that you have understood ; If the complaint is unclear, ask what it is they want

    to happen or have done

    ; Decide what action you can take to resolve the

    complaint on the spot

    ; Ask the customer whether that action will resolve the


    ; Take the agreed action

    ; Record the complaint

    Written Complaints

    Responding by phone

; Acknowledge the complaint promptly

    ; Repeat your understanding of the problem to the


    ; Decide what action you can take to resolve the


    ; Ask the customer whether that action will resolve the


    ; Tell the customer what will happen, who will be

    dealing with the matter and how they can be


    ; Take the agreed action

    ; Record the complaint

    Written Complaints

    Responding by letter

    ; Decide what action you can take to resolve the


    ; In your letter write:

    - that you have received the complaint

    - your understanding of the problem

    - suggested action to resolve the complaint

    - what will happen next

    - your name and phone number as contact

; Take the agreed action

    ; Record the complaint

    ; Thank the customer for providing the feedback to


    What can be learnt from complaints?

    Complaints are a valuable source of information. By analysing complaints you can learn:

Where things went wrong

Ask yourself these questions:

    ; Was this kind of problem/complaint foreseen?

    ; Is it confined to one area only?

    ; Was there a system in place to deal with such


    ; Was the system operating as it should have? If not,

    why did the system fail?

How can we do better in the future?

Ask yourself these questions:

    ; Could this kind of problem/complaint happen again?

    ; What is the likelihood of it happening again?

    ; Is there a cost effective way of preventing it from

    happening again?

    Effective complaint systems are an essential part of providing quality customer service

    Poor service and ineffective communication may account for 1/3 of total workload

    Complaint data helps identify service deficiencies that need corrective action

    Complaints must be seen as positive opportunities for service recovery

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