The Council is committed to continually improving the quality of, and access to, the services it provides. This policy covers all 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, the conduct of Councillors or requests for information under the Freedom of Information Act, Environmental Information Regulations or Data Protection Act. In addition, issues which are in court or have already been heard by a court or tribunal fall outside this policy.
A clear and accessible Complaints, Compliments and Comments process allows the Council to demonstrate its commitment to managing customer feedback effectively.
This purpose of this Policy is to ensure that:
For the purpose of this Policy “feedback” includes compliments, comments and complaints and the following definitions will be used;
Compliments are specific expressions of satisfaction from customers concerning a function or a service provided by the Council. A simple thank you, usually at the end of a contact, would not normally be considered a compliment.
Comment are views or suggestions that customers may have about a service that is provided by the Council or an initial request for a service.
There is often confusion about what constitutes a complaint, which leads to complaints mistakenly being labelled as requests for service. A request for service is not a situation where the Customer is requesting an item or service that is missing/has been missed, this is a complaint. However a complaint about a taxi driver or noisy neighbour would be treated as a request for service.
Where there is any doubt whether the customer’s feedback is a complaint, a comment or a request for service, it is to be treated as a complaint.
A complaint is also any expression of dissatisfaction with the standard of a service that is provided by the Council. This may include the action or lack of action taken by the Council and/or the way in which the service has been provided, including the conduct of staff. This will also include situations where customers state that the perceived failure has repeatedly occurred.
This may include complaints about:
The above definitions also extend to complaints in respect of partners or contractors providing services on behalf of the Council, in these cases the contracting/managing department is responsible for ensuring that complaints are investigated, resolved and responded to.
There is no difference between a formal and an informal complaint. Both are expressions of dissatisfaction that require attention as a complaint and a response.
A complaint of a serious nature which gives rise to concerns about fraud or corruption will be dealt with under the Council’s Whistleblowing procedures.
English language requirement for Public Sector workers
The Council is under a duty to ensure that all staff in customer facing roles are fluent in spoken English to the extent necessary to enable them to perform their role effectively.
If a customer feels that a member of staff in a customer facing role has insufficient proficiency in spoken English for the performance of their role they can complain to the Council. This complaint will then be investigated and a response provided in accordance with the Policy.
Please note that a complaint about a member of staff’s accent, dialect, origin or nationality will not be considered a legitimate complaint.
How a customer may provide feedback
A customer may provide feedback either;
We will respond to customers in writing, unless it is appropriate to respond via other channels of contact (for example the telephone or in person).
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. Standard forms are available on the Council’s website and at all Council reception areas.
The Council’s Leisure Centres have ‘comments books’ 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 Council will ensure that reasonable adjustments are made to help customers access and use the Council’s services. The Council will provide assistance to those who may struggle with providing feedback or require information in another language or format.
Recording compliments, complaints and comments
The Service Manager (Customer Services and Communications) is responsible for the Council’s compliments, complaints and comments system.
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. They must also ensure that 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, complaints and comments system.
All compliments and complaints must be recorded promptly in the Councils compliments, complaints and comments system and dealt with in the agreed timescales. This will allow the Council to; take into account customer feedback, pass on compliments to relevant staff, learn from mistakes, identify improvements to service delivery and 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.
If a complaint involves more than one organisation, for example Nottinghamshire County Council, the dealing department should ensure that communication is made with the third party to ensure the Customer receives a proper response and to avoid customers being passed back and forth between organisations.
Guidance for managing compliments
All compliments should be acknowledged and, if relating to a specific individual or team, relevant staff informed that a compliment has been received.
Guidance for managing comments
All comments should be acknowledged, appropriate action taken and, where relevant, feedback given to the customer within 10 days of reciept.
Framework for managing complaints
The Council has a three stage complaint process:
Stage 1 - Service Department Complaint (Investigated at point of service delivery)
Stage 2 - Service Department Reviews
Stage 3 – Referral to the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman (Ombudsman)
Any correspondence received from/sent to the Ombudsman will be handled by the Council’s Service Manager: Legal Services on behalf of the Council’s Monitoring Officer who will enter the referral on to the LGO system. The actual referral will also be sent to the relevant Service Manager for their comments.
Feedback relating to staff behaviour
Notifying staff of compliments made about them can improve staff satisfaction, staff morale, customer service and performance. Where a complaint relates to a specific member of staff, the complaint will be investigated in an appropriate way, which may include consideration under the Council’s Disciplinary Procedure.
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 the position they would have been if things had not gone wrong.
Evaluating our response to customers
Customer Services may contact customers, following resolution, asking them to complete a satisfaction form. The aim of this is to provide information to help the Council determine:
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 PDRs.
Each quarter, the Service Manager (Customer Services and Communications) 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 Council’s Corporate Performance Management System. Following this the Customer Insight Officer will prepare a report and analysis for consideration by Senior Leadership Team.
Unreasonably persistent complainants
On occasions certain complaints can be difficult to resolve and can cause anxiety and distress to customers and employees. Whilst the aim of the council is always to try to find a way to resolve matters, there are occasions when customers become unreasonable or unreasonably persistent in their actions to obtain the outcome that they want.
There is a need to ensure that these complaints are dealt with fairly. However, there is also a need to ensure that Council resources are used effectively and that other customers or employees do not suffer any detriment as a result of their behaviour. There is a separate policy to deal with any unreasonably persistent complainants.