Procedure for handling customer complaints and feedback
Procedure Reference Number: Date Procedure Effective From: Date of Last Revision:
1 June 2010 1 May 2012
Content of Procedure 1. Introduction 2. Objective of procedure 3. Customer feedback process 4. Insurance/Compensation claims 5. Recording, monitoring and reporting feedback 6. Raising staff awareness and understanding of the procedure 7. Publicising the customer feedback procedure 8. Unacceptable behaviour/Malicious complainants 9. Legislation and related policies 10. Supporting documents/Appendices
Appendix 1 Appendix 2 Appendix 3 -
Compensation procedure Appeals Panel Roles and livin responsibilities Unacceptable complainant behaviour procedure
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As part of livin’s commitment to providing high quality customer services, all customer feedback should be regarded as an opportunity to improve services.
Feedback can be collected in several ways including: • in person • via telephone • in writing • completing a customer satisfaction survey • completing a customer feedback form • email
There are three types of feedback that customers can give to livin: • Complaints • General comments which includes suggestions for service improvement • Compliments Complaints
The definition of a complaint is “any expression of dissatisfaction whether justified or not, which requires a response.”
A complaint is when a customer expresses one of the following: • Dissatisfaction with action taken by livin or its partners (for example, something has been done badly or wrongly) • Dissatisfaction with a lack of action by livin or its partners (for example, failure to do something that should have been done) • Dissatisfaction with the way staff or contractors have dealt with someone (for example, unfair or discourteous treatment of someone)
A complaint, for the purpose of this procedure, is not any of the following: • A request for service (for example, reporting a repair) • A request for information, or explanation of livin’ policies • Any matter for which there is a right of appeal or redress • Something which happened or which the customer knew of more than 12 months before contacting livin • A complaint relating to antisocial behaviour (ASB), which would normally be dealt with under livin’ ASB policy • An issue that is currently subject to legal proceedings General Comments/Suggestions for Improvement
This type of comment is more neutral than a compliment or complaint, but is still important and can help to plan future services and generate Page 2 of 11
ideas on how to improve existing services. Compliments 1.3.5
Compliments are useful for identifying when livin has got things right. All will be forwarded to the relevant Head of Service and the person or service team being praised to encourage the behaviours being demonstrated.
OBJECTIVE OF THE PROCEDURE
To receive positive or negative feedback about the services livin delivers.
To respond to feedback and analyse information to make sure that lessons are learned and services are more efficiently and conveniently delivered to customers.
To comply with the principles of livin Customer Complaints and Feedback Policy.
CUSTOMER FEEDBACK PROCESS
The way in which feedback is dealt with will depend on the type of feedback it is and the way it is received. This procedure sets out the steps that will be taken when dealing with each type of feedback received. General Comments/Suggestions for Improvement
Receipt of comments/suggestions will be acknowledged within 2 working days by the Customer Relations Team.
All comments received will be recorded by the Customer Relations Team and referred to the relevant case officer for action. Compliments
Where possible each Head of Service will personally deal with all compliments to demonstrate that good working procedures are recognised and appreciated.
All compliments received will be recorded by the Customer Relations Team and referred to the relevant Head of Service for action.
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There are three formal stages to the internal complaints procedure and one informal stage. The informal stage is a quick and easy way for officers to resolve the complainants issue on the spot and where possible officers should try to resolve the complaint at this stage.
The formal complaints procedure begins when it is not possible to resolve an issue immediately, or the customer believes that the initial attempt to deal with the issue has not resolved the issue they have raised. There is a designated case officer for each Directorate and they are responsible for ensuring that the complaint is dealt with efficiently, effectively and within the agreed timescales at each of the complaint stages which:
Informal This is an opportunity for livin, or its partners, to deal with issues, ‘on the spot’, at the first point of contact. Stage 1 At this level livin aims to resolve the issue within 10 working days. If the complainant does not consider the matter resolved at the informal stage, they have the right to have the outcome reviewed by a complaints case officer, but this must be requested within 28 calendar days. This is Stage 1 of livin’s formal internal complaints procedure. Further information on the role of the case officer at each stage can be found at 3.16. Stage 2 At this level livin aims to investigate the way the complaint was handled at stage 1 within 10 working days. If the complainant does not consider the complaint was handled in accordance with livin policy/procedure after the stage 1 investigation is complete, they have the right to have the matter reviewed by a manager from an unconnected livin service area, but this must be requested within 28 calendar days of receiving the stage 1 closing letter. Further information on the role of the case officer at each stage can be found at 3.20 Appeal
If the complainant does not consider that the complaint was handled in accordance with livin policy/procedure after the stage 2 investigation is complete, they have the right to request to have the matter reviewed by the Appeals Panel, but this must be requested within 28 days of receiving the stage 2 closing letter. The Appeals Panel will review the outcome of the Stage 2 complaint. Further information on the make up and role of the Appeals Panel can be found at 3.24.
Where an interpreter or translator is required, the time limit for response may be extended by five working days at any stage within the process.
All complaints will be required to have an outcome which includes ‘lessons learned’. The case officer must demonstrate that where applicable appropriate action has been taken to ensure that the reason for complaint does not happen again. Page 4 of 11
Complaints about staff 3.10
Complaints regarding staff attitude and poor performance will (where appropriate) initially be carried out as part of the formal stage 1 investigation. If it is clear that there is evidence of staff misconduct then the case officer will inform the Human Resources (see 3.11). The complainant will be advised in the formal stage 1 closing letter that the matter has been referred to Human Resources to be investigated in accordance with the Corporate Disciplinary Procedure.
Where complaints involve allegations of staff misconduct, investigations will be carried out in accordance with the Corporate Disciplinary Procedure. The Customer Relations Team will inform the Human Resources section of livin as to the nature of the complaint.
The case officer should not carry out any disciplinary investigation or action against the member of staff and stress that the duty of the case officer is to investigate the complaint and not the staff involved.
If upon completion of the investigation into a complaint the case officer believes there may be a case for disciplinary action against the member of staff involved, all the information concerning the case will be passed to the Head of Human Resources. Complaints about Partner Contractors
Complaints may be received about a partner contractor that has: • Done something badly or wrongly • Failed to do something they should have done • Treated someone unfairly or discourteously These complaints will be referred to the designated case officer of the partner for them to deal with (an up to date list of case officers will be maintained by the Customer Relations Team). The partner is required to deal with complaints in accordance with livin’s complaints policy and procedure and performance measures will be agreed. Complaints received by a Partner Contractor
All complaints received by the contractor must be logged on site and passed to the Customer Relations Team each day by 3pm. Informal complaints handling
All staff should attempt to resolve complaints at the first point of contact (Informal Stage).
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The role of the case officer at Stage 1 3.16
The role of the case officer is to investigate the way the complaint was dealt with at the informal stage. The case officer must not be the officer the complainant is complaining about. They must ensure that the complainant is visited and spoken to directly before responding to the complainant with their findings.
The case officer must complete the investigation with a letter outlining the findings within ten working days of receipt of the complaint. The purpose of the letter is to advise the tenant: • • •
That the investigation is considered complete That livin, or its partners, has, or has not, acted in accordance with livin policy and procedure in delivering the service the complaint is about If livin, or its partners, has not acted in accordance with livin policy and procedure in delivering the service, the letter must give an apology, outline what remedial actions will be taken and the deadline for such action being completed That if the customer does not consider that the complaint has been handled in accordance with livin’s complaints procedure, they may ask for the complaint to be escalated to Stage 2 within 28 days of the date on the stage 1 closing letter
If the officer is unable to respond in the ten working day limit a holding letter must be sent explaining the reasons for delay and giving a specific date for a written response. If the officer is unable to resolve within this deadline holding letters must be sent every ten working days thereafter. The expected date must be logged and adhered to.
Copies of all correspondence, details of visits and telephone calls must be sent to the Customer Relations Team so that a comprehensive audit trail of actions taken can be held centrally. The role of the manager at Stage 2
The Stage 2 officer must be a manager from an unrelated service area to the service that is being complained about. The officer must ensure that the complainant is visited and spoken to directly before responding to the complainant with their findings.
The manager must complete the investigation with a letter outlining the findings within ten working days of receipt. The purpose of the letter is to advise the complainant that: • •
The investigation is considered complete The complaint has, or has not, been upheld
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If the complaint is upheld, the letter must include an apology, outline what remedial actions will be taken and the deadline for such action being completed That if they do not consider the complaint has not been handled in accordance with livin’s complaints procedure, they may ask for the complaint to be escalated to be discussed by the Appeals Panel
If the manager is unable to deal with the complaint within the ten day period, they must write to the complainant advising of the delay and give an expected date for the final outcome to be communicated to them. The expected date must be logged and adhered to.
Copies of all correspondence, details of visits and telephone calls must be sent to the Customer Relations Team so that a comprehensive audit trail of actions taken can be held centrally. The role of the Appeals Panel
The panel is made up of: • • • • •
1 Tenant Board Member 2 Tenants Panel members Customer Relations & Diversity Team Leader Central Admin support officer Company Solicitor (in an advisory capacity where deemed appropriate)
The Panel will review all of the matters considered by the case officers at the previous stages and make recommendations (including appropriate compensation where applicable) to the Executive Director People and Communities based on their findings and conclusions. An acknowledgement will be sent to the complainant within three working days of receipt of the appeal and the appeal should be heard within four weeks of receipt of the appeal. A response should be made within 15 working days following the Appeal hearing. (Also see Compensation Procedure at Appendix 1).
An in-depth guide as to how the Appeals Panel should deal with complaints can be found in the Appeals Panel Roles and livin Responsibilities at Appendix 2. The role of the Housing Ombudsman Service
When investigating a complaint, the Ombudsman is concerned to establish whether the landlord has been guilty of maladministration which may include, but not exclusively, circumstances where the landlord: • failed to comply with any relevant legal obligations • failed to comply with an relevant codes of practice
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• • • •
behaved unfairly, unreasonably, negligently, or incompetently failed to apply its own procedures delayed unreasonably in dealing with the matter has treated the complainant personally in a heavy-handed, unsympathetic or inappropriate manner
The Ombudsman will also consider whether a complaint involves an unresolved dispute between a complainant and a landlord, whether involving the landlords maladministration or not, and if it might be resolved and, if so, how.
The Ombudsman will not consider complaints which, in their opinion; • could still be pursued through the complaints procedure • could be rectified through the courts/tribunal • seek to question or overturn policies which have been agreed by good practice • concerns the level or amount of rent/service charge increases (unless the legality and administration of the collection, calculation, application of, accounting for, and communication of any such rents, charges or increases) • disputes between neighbours, however the Ombudsman will consider complaints about how the landlord has dealt with such issues • matters which have already been dealt with by the Ombudsman and which the Ombudsman believes the pursuit of such a complaint to be unreasonable • concern the terms and operation of commercial or contractual transactions but not those connected with the complainants application for or occupation of a property • concern terms of employment or other personnel issues, or the ending of a service tenancy following the ending of a contract of employment • fall properly within the jurisdiction of another Ombudsman, or a regulator such as the Tenant Services Authority
Insurance claims should be referred to the Customer Relations Team to be logged. The team will refer the claim to the Company Solicitor and monitor progress as necessary.
Claims for compensation should be dealt with in accordance with the compensation procedure (see Appendix 2). Compensation should be considered at all stages of the complaints procedure as an option to resolve a complaint where appropriate.
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RECORDING, MONITORING AND REPORTING PROCESS Recording
All customer feedback will be logged by the Customer Relations Team into the Customer Feedback database and will record: • ID number of case • Name and Address of person giving feedback • Date feedback received • Name of Performance Officer monitoring the case • Name of case officer • Source of feedback (letter, survey, telephone etc) • Service area • Comment id code • Details of comment • Action taken • Stage at which complaint was closed • Compensation payable/not payable • Reason compensation payable/not payable • Days taken to resolve the case • Lessons learned
Individual electronic case files will be set up and stored on the server by the Customer Relations Team in relation to complaints only. This will ensure an audit trail is available at all times.
All files relating to the complaint must be passed to the Customer Relations Team on a timely basis so that the case file is up to date at all times.
A satisfaction survey may be completed with complainants from time to time in order to obtain their view on the process of complaint investigation and handling by livin and partners.
Suggestions for service improvement and lessons learned from complaints must be reported to the monthly performance review meetings to ensure the loop is closed and that similar complaints are avoided in the future.
Scrutiny group will monitor complaints on a quarterly basis. In addition, livin will actively encourage tenants to periodically assist in reviewing performance in relation to complaints at the performance review meetings. This will include reviewing complaints handling, performance and lessons learned to improve services.
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Monitoring of partner complaints 5.7
All complaints received directly by the partnering contractor must be referred to livin for recording and monitoring purposes.
All complaints relating to partnering contractors will be monitored as per 5.5 and 5.6. Reporting/publication
A schedule of the complaints received since the last report will be prepared for the quarterly performance clinic by the Customer Relations Team. This will be in the agreed report format and will include a summary of complaints handling performance in a table.
High level performance relating to customer complaints will be reported on a quarterly basis to Senior Management Team and Performance and Development Committee.
livin and partners’ performance in dealing with customer feedback will be publicised on the: • livin website • livin magazine
RAISING STAFF AWARENESS AND UNDERSTANDING OF THE PROCEDURE
All staff will receive training once this procedure is agreed and adopted.
All staff will be made aware of their duty to follow this procedure as part of their Induction Training.
All staff will be made aware of the need for confidentiality in dealing with complaints.
All staff will be made aware of the need to offer assistance to customers making complaints.
Staff should ensure that all complaints they refer to Customer Relations Team are received within 1 working day of receipt of the original complaint.
PUBLICISING THE PROCEDURE
This procedure will be publicised through leaflets, staff/partners, the tenants magazine and the livin website.
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Copies of the Customer Complaints and Feedback Policy and related procedures will also be available to customers on request.
Occasionally a complainant may become unreasonably persistent. This is after all internal review mechanisms have been exhausted and the user continues to dispute the decision that has been made. This may be about the determination of a complaint or the manner in which the case was handled. The user will be advised that no future communications concerning the case will be accepted. If the user insists in making contact about the same issue, their communication will be read and filed, but only acknowledged or responded to if it provides significant new information relating to the case. The complainant will be advised that they may contact the Housing Ombudsman Service; however the file will remain closed at the discretion of the Customer Relations Team supervisor.
Full details of the Unacceptable Complainant Behaviour procedure may be found at Appendix 3.
LEGISLATION AND RELATED POLICIES/PROCEDURES
Data Protection Act livin Customer Feedback and Compensation Policy livin Disciplinary Procedure livin Grievance Procedure Equality and Diversity Policy livin Compensation Procedure livin Whistleblowing Policy livin Lone Worker Policy livin Unacceptable Complainant Behaviour Procedure
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