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The Stages of Complaint Handling

1. Acknowledge

  • Acknowledge all complaints quickly.
  • Repeat what you’ve heard in your own words. This creates a shared understanding and establishes empathy.
  • Tell the complainant what happens next with their complaint and provide contact details for the staff member handling the complaint.
  • Reassure all parties that confidentiality will be respected.
  • Give an estimate of how long the process may take.
  • Invite those involved to participate in the resolution process; engage the care recipient.
  • Complaints that are straightforward with low risk can be resolved on first contact.

2. Assess

  • Assess the complaint and prioritise against other complaints the service is handling.
  • Clarify the concerns and issues raised by the complainant.
  • Determine the level of risk to the care recipient, other care recipients and the service.
  • Ask the care recipient and complainant how they would like to see the complaint resolved.
  • Show a positive, professional attitude and thank the complainant for bringing the matter to your attention.
  • Plan (if required)
    • Consider the best way to resolve the complaint (eg conciliation with the complainant or investigation).
    • Prepare a short written plan of how the complaint will be managed and any information to be collected.
    • Focus attention on the issue to be investigated.
    • Remain flexible and make adjustments as required
    • Investigate (if required)
      • Gather relevant information to resolve the complaint.
      • A fair investigation is impartial, confidential, transparent and timely.
      • Keep written notes of discussions.
      • Allow complainants to present their point of view.

An effective complaint handling process is fair, accessible, responsive, efficient and contributes to ongoing quality improvement in service delivery.

3. Respond

  • Consider giving an apology. It can improve your relationship with the complainant.
  • Respond to the complainant with a clear decision and explain your reason for the decision.
  • Written responses may be more suitable for complex matters.
  • Communicate outcomes promptly.

4. Follow Up

  • Check if complainant is satisfied with the resolution.
  • Ask complainants for feedback.
  • Outline alternative options available to the complainant.
  • Reviews should be carried out by staff who haven’t been previously involved.

5. Consider

  • Are there issues or problems which could be repeated?
  • Was there a delay in resolving the complaint?
  • Can procedures and policies be reviewed to improve the complaints process?

Regular contact with the complainant should be maintained throughout the process. It’s important to keep the complainant informed if their issue is taking longer to resolve than first advised.