The Council is committed to continually improving the way it provides customers with access to services and the quality of those services. This policy covers all the services delivered by the Council, or for which it has responsibility, it does not include services where there are separate complaints procedures, for example the conduct of elections or about the conduct of Councillors.
A clear and accessible Compliments, Complaints & Comments process allows the Council to demonstrate its commitment to manage customer feedback effectively
This Policy is designed to ensure that:
For the purpose of this Policy the following definitions will be used.
Customers often have feedback and it is important that we understand whether this is a complaint about a service, or expression of a comment. Where a customer perceives that the service they have received is below what they would expect, this should be considered to be a complaint. It is important that it is investigated and a full answer given to the customer and that there is some learning from any mistakes made. Where there are comments or observations from customers, these can also help to improve service provision, and these will always be considered by managers, but not treated as a complaint.
The distinction between a comment and a complaint can sometimes be difficult to decide. Where there is any doubt, we will tend to treat it as a complaint, the Service Manager (Customer Services and IT) will advise on the application of this element of the policy.
A customer may provide feedback either
Generally we will respond to customers using the same channel of contact, unless expressly asked otherwise. For example, if contacted by email, then all further correspondence will be by email.
Customers are encouraged to put their complaints in writing to give as much information as possible to aid investigation. If they are making a verbal complaint, we will take down their details and confirm with them that they wish the complaint to be investigated and how to contact them with the outcome of the investigation
A standard feedback form will be available at all Council reception areas and on the Council’s website.
The Council’s Leisure Centres all have a ‘comments book’ available for customers in the Reception areas. The Manager of the Leisure Centre reviews these each day and provides a response in the book, this can be checked by the customer who made the comment, and other customers which ensures there is comprehensive feedback.
The Service Manager (Customer Services and IT) is responsible for the Council’s compliments, complaints and comments procedure.
To ensure that there is consistency across the different Council departments, Service Managers must designate appropriate staff to receive and deal with any feedback regarding their service area. Relevant staff in their departments are aware of the importance of recognising what compliments and complaints are and are dealt with and recorded on the Council’s compliments and complaints system.
All compliments and complaints must be recorded promptly in the Councils compliments and complaints system and dealt with in the agreed timescales. This will allow the Council to take in to account feedback received from customers, learn from our mistakes, to identify improvements to service delivery and to identify training needs.
Where there is a complaint involving more than one department of the Council then the departments involved will identify a lead officer to investigate and deal with the complaint.
Service Managers should ensure that they monitor and review outcomes of all feedback that they receive within their departments to identify trends and to use them for discussion at team meetings, staff development and Staff PDR’s.
Each Quarter, the Service Manager (Customer Services and IT) will collate details relating to the number of compliments and complaints received by the Council for each Service area. These details will be entered onto the Councils Corporate Performance Management System.
If required and by invitation or request, the Service Manager (Customer Services and IT) will provide additional information relating to compliments and complaints received by the Council for each department to the Performance Scrutiny Committee.
The Council will adopt a three stage complaint process:
Stage 1 - Service Department Complaint
Stage 2 - Service Department Reviews
Stage 3 – Referral to the Local Government Ombudsman
Any correspondence received from and to the Local Government Ombudsman will be handled by the Council’s Senior Solicitor and Monitoring Officer who will enter the referral on to the Local Government Ombudsman system. The actual referral will be sent to the relevant Service Manager for their comments.
Where a complaint investigation identifies that things have gone wrong an appropriate remedy will be determined.
Appropriate remedies could include:
The guiding principle must be that where possible the customer is put back in to the position they would have been if things had not gone wrong.
Customer Services may contact complainants after a complaint has been dealt with asking them to complete a satisfaction form. The aim of this form is to provide information to help the Council determine:
On occasions certain complaints can be difficult to resolve and can cause anxiety and distress to both complainants and employees of the Council. Whilst the aim of the council is always to try to find a way to resolve matters, on occasions complainants are encountered who become unreasonably persistent or vexatious in their actions to obtain the outcome that they want.
The Council wants to ensure that in using the complaints procedure complainants who are unreasonable persistent or vexatious are dealt with fairly but also that the Council’s resources are also used effectively as possible and that other service users or Council employees do not suffer any detriment as a result of their behaviour.
Whilst every effort will be taken to resolve a complaint there is a separate policy to deal with any unreasonably persistent or vexatious complaints