Complaints and Incidents
Complaints can vary radically in subject matter, intensity, and desired outcomes. For instance, a company can receive a complaint about a seemingly trivial matter, but from a particularly litigious customer. On the other hand, a complaint could relate to an incident of serious misconduct but may be expressed in an understated manner. In all instances, organisations should aim to deal with complaints adequately, however they arise. This could mean instructing a legal team to act in formal proceedings or simply using a customer’s feedback to identify training needs amongst staff.
Three recent stories
1. Reports of sexual misconduct in Scottish universities
A number of schools and universities in the UK have been scrutinised for the way in which complaints of sexual misconduct have been handled. In particular, some Scottish universities, such as Edinburgh, have appeared in several testimonies on the website ‘Everyone’s Invited’. Anonymous posts on the website have named specific halls of residence at Edinburgh University, in which it is alleged that a number of sexual assaults have taken place. In light of these high-profile allegations, [the Times has reported that] Scottish universities are reviewing their complaints handling procedure for sexual misconduct.
2. Member of Oxford University’s women’s boat club alleges rape
Sexual misconduct at universities was also brought to the forefront in another recent story. A member of the women’s boat club at the University of Oxford alleged that she was raped by another athlete. Although she submitted a form reporting the incident to the proctor’s office, it is claimed that a response was not received for almost six weeks.
3. New York Mets employees’ complaints not addressed
In the United States, staff at the New York Mets made a number of complaints that they had been the victims of inappropriate work conduct. Those complaints included allegations of sexual misconduct. The Athletic has reported that senior members of staff at the Mets were aware of the misconduct but had failed to properly respond.
Key lessons learnt
The details of the stories outlined above are all different. But they do share some common themes. For instance, in each story, the spotlight has fallen, not only on the substantive issues leading up to the complaints themselves, but on the complaint-handling process as well.
Dissatisfaction with the handling of complaints does not appear to be an infrequent occurrence. There are times, for example, when an organisation will send a complainant a holding response, without ever following up with any substantive reply. There are a number of reasons as to why this can occur, ranging from innocent oversight to outright neglect. Whatever the reason, given the potential consequences for an organisation, it is worth considering whether improvements could be made to your complaints handling system.
It goes without saying that an effective procedure for dealing with complaints cannot overcome managerial intransigence or willful blindness. But there are instances where organisations are, in principle, willing to address complaints as swiftly and comprehensively as possible, but simply lack the tools to do so.
This has been highlighted in a recent report from the HM Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate, in which it was said that the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) has not been responding to complaints in a timely manner. It was found that the SFO has not been diligent in setting timetables for responding to complaints.
What can organisations do differently?
In many cases, a complainant’s biggest grievance with the handling of their complaint is that it was not dealt with quickly enough. Instead of tracking complaints in static Word documents or spreadsheets, establishing a system that sets proper reminders is one way to address this problem. It is also worth having a tool that can categorise different types of complaints, assigning the highest priority to the most severe cases.
Of course, concerns with the handling of complaints are not always merely procedural. They can also stem from a complainant feeling they have not been truly heard. This is why it is important that there is a human element in every response, ensuring a level of compassion and understanding which a software tool cannot provide. But implementing an efficient complaints procedure is a step in the right direction.
An organisation that is consistently failing to protect those who come under its auspices should also consider implementing safeguards to prevent serious misconduct from recurring. Organisations should also be equipped to respond swiftly and fairly if such situations do arise again.
The VinciWorks solution
VinciWorks’ complaints registers allow you to manage all internal and external complaints from one central, secure platform, making it easy to manage complaints and update staff when necessary. This allows organisations to stay on top of all complaints and choose the best course of action. Among other core features, our registers are 100% customisable and use conditional logic so that only relevant questions are asked.
To learn more about our complaints registers solution or book a demo, please fill out the short form below.