Outsourcing public services: clearing a backlog of complaints

Outsourcing public services: clearing a backlog of complaints

Unanswered complaints

A backlog of unanswered complaints is a sure fire target for a diligent regulator.  And the question that follows the discovery of the backlog – ‘what did you learn from your last complaint?’ – usually guarantees that a CEO is going to squirm.

Good complaints handling is something that organisations from health, to finance to energy can find difficult.  And there is nothing more corrosive to an organisation’s reputation than a poorly managed, inadequately investigated or entirely unanswered complaint.  The vitriol on social media attests to that.

Managing complaints properly is a key function for any organisation.  To do this you need an interested board and executive, clear internal & external processes and engaged staff.  And, of course, customers who bother to complain.  Dealing with a complaint at the time and place it arises should be everyone’s business and the first response to an unhappy customer.  Healthcare seems to do particularly badly on that front with frontline staff often inviting patients and relatives to make a formal complaint without even trying to sort out the matter themselves although it might be easy to solve.  And in some sectors, consumers are still reluctant to complain at all. As Lewis Shand Smith, the energy ombudsman recently wrote on his blog:

‘We have seen improvements but there is still a long way to go. Disappointingly, only 5% of consumers who could bring an energy complaint to the Energy Ombudsman actually do, according to Ofgem.’ 

Verita has extensive expertise and experience handling complaints in the public, regulated and voluntary sectors.  We provide an independent complaints review service for a number of public-facing bodies including the Lottery Forum, Arts Council England and the British Council.  And we have helped healthcare organisations manage backlogs of over 200 complaints, some of which were long-standing.  We have developed such a body of knowledge and understanding that we have incorporated it into a software-based diagnostic tool.  The tool allows us to make a rapid assessment of the quality and resilience of an organisation’s complaints system and report the outcome promptly to the board and management team.

For more information, read our case study on effective complaint handling.

If you would like to learn more about unanswered complaints then please contact our Ed Marsden on 020 7494 5670 or [email protected].


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