The cornerstone of good complaint handling is a culture where all staff understand the value of complaints and are committed to delivering a high quality service.

Embedding a strong and committed culture requires:

  • strong executive leadership to promote, prioritise and resource high quality complaint handling

  • firm commitment from management and staff to design, manage and deliver better practice service.

You have an important role in your complaint handling system.

The type of commitment required from you depends on your role within the agency.

Head of agency and executive

Managers responsible for complaint handling

Complaint handling staff

Other staff

Head of agency and executive

Commitment required

Make complaint handling a priority for the agency and create the framework for it to succeed

Achieve this by:

Corporate planning

  • Include complaint handling standards in the agency's service charter, business plans and service standards.

  • Report publicly on complaint handling in annual reports and other high-level corporate documents.

Resourcing your complaint handlers

  • Ensure dedicated and adequate resources are allocated to enable your staff to deliver an effective complaint service (including adequate permanent staffing levels).

  • Providing an electronic system for managing complaints and complaint data.

  • Ensure the senior manager responsible for complaints has direct access to other senior managers.

Agency executives face constant pressure to balance budget resources. However, properly resourced complaint handling systems can drive improvements which increase the efficiency of the programs you deliver.

Promoting better practice

  • Ensure the actions and messaging of the executive clearly demonstrate to staff that the agency values complaints.

Monitoring your system

  • Make sure you understand your complaint handling system.

  • Receive regular internal reports on the quality and timeliness of complaint handling.

  • Require regular 'health checks' and reviews of complaints handling systems.

  • Use complaint information in program review and service delivery.

Managers responsible for complaint handling

Commitment required

Establish and manage an effective, professional complaint handling system

Achieve this by

  • making your system accessible

  • documenting internal procedures and guidance

  • recruiting suitable staff

  • providing comprehensive training

  • monitoring and ensuring staff wellbeing

  • implementing robust quality assurance and complaint review processes

  • promoting strong internal networks to ensure support for complaint handlers from other business areas

  • sharing complaint insights and systemic issues with business areas, audit and governance committees, and the executive

  • reporting regularly to other areas of the agency on issues arising from complaint handling work

  • keeping up to date with better practice, participating in complaint handling forums and regularly reviewing your complaint handling system.

  • Complaint managers should be internal champions promoting a positive, integrated complaint handling culture.

Complaint handling staff

Commitment required

Display exemplary practice in handling complaints

Achieve this by

  • behaving professionally when dealing with complainants

  • knowing and complying with internal complaint handling procedures

  • keeping informed about your agency's work including any changes to programs and services

  • learning how to identify and feedback systemic issues

  • keeping up to date with better practice in complaint handling.

Complaint handling staff must demonstrate professional, empathetic, effective complaints handling practices in accordance with internal policy and procedures and better practice guidelines.

Other staff

Commitment required

Work collaboratively with complaint handling areas to ensure an accessible and responsive complaint handling system.

Achieve this by

  • being aware of your internal complaint handling policies and procedures

  • helping people access the complaints process

  • helping complaint handling staff resolve problems

  • helping complaint handling staff understand your agency's business

  • responding to systemic issues that arise as a result of individual complaints.

Case study: An agency officer visited David at his home to provide a service. David explained that he had been waiting for a long time for someone to visit him. The officer apologised for the delay and explained that he was unaware of the reason for the delay. The officer then explained that David should lodge a complaint so the agency could find out the reason for the delay and improve their service to David in the future.

Case study: A complaint handler was allocated a complaint from Sally. After speaking with Sally, the complaint handler decided that more information was needed from the business area mentioned in the complaint. The business area suggested that the most efficient way for Sally's complaint to be resolved was for her to be contacted by an officer of that business area. The complaint handler remained involved in the process so the complaint could be finalised.