The right to complain

Clients have a right to complain if they are dissatisfied with some aspect of the service. They should be made aware of this fact and of the complaints processes used by your agency. It should be standard practice to provide this information to clients.

Most agencies have a Client Grievance Policy/Procedure as part of their Policies and Procedures Manual.  You should be aware of this policy and associated procedures so that you can support the client and handle the complaint appropriately.

The complaints process

Most complaints management procedures follow a similar three-stage approach:

  1. Solve the problem where it began: first talk to the person first with whom you have the grievance or who you believe was/is directly involved.
  2. Take the grievance to a higher level, if you are unable to solve the problem with those directly involved.
  3. Take the grievance to an agency which will provide advocacy. See the next topic Referring clients to advocacy services

Possible outcomes when handling a complaint

  • Record the grievance but take no further action.
  • Investigate the grievance.
  • Refer the grievance to another person.
  • The client is given the choice of the action they wish to take.

How to handle a complaint

Some general strategies to remember when you are managing a complaint include:

  • Aim to establish and maintain rapport throughout the process.
  • Discuss issues broadly.
  • Be willing to talk things through.
  • Be open.
  • Find out what lies behind the issue/complaint. Is there another way to solve the problem?
  • Maintain a good relationship.
  • Use ‘and’, not ‘but’ to include objections.
  • Be prepared to follow through and act promptly.
  • Refer the matter to your supervisor if you are unable to handle the matter.

Interactive activity - Handling complaints

Read the following case studies and for each describe how you would handle the situation.

A client who uses your service wants to make a complaint to you about not having much contact with their support worker.


A client complains to you that their file was left open on the front counter when they last came in for an appointment. The office was very busy and they believed several people would have read about their case from the open file.


A client complains that while they were in the waiting room with a number of other people, the receptionist was speaking about the client's case on the telephone. The client reported that the receptionist was very loud and that everyone could hear the client's personal details.


Feedback
  • Identify the precise nature of the complaint: discuss the issues with the client.
  • Document client concerns.
  • Ask the client how they would like the matter resolved.
  • Begin complaints process documentation as per agency procedure.
  • Alert the supervisor to the complaint and the nature of it.
  • Be prepared to assist in clarifying the complaint with the client, and working toward a resolution of the issue.

Logbook activity - Complaints procedure

Locate your agency's complaints policy and complaints form. Add this document to your Logbook.

Last modified: Tuesday, 8 October 2013, 3:56 PM