Dealing with complaints might not be the most pleasant task, but it is a crucial part of safeguarding participants and ensuring high-quality support, not to mention that it is a legal requirement as an NDIS provider. When someone complains about a problem, it's an opportunity for your team to step up and resolve the issue, which makes your services even better. So, let's dive into why complaints management is crucial for NDIS organisation and how your team can handle complaints effectively.
Why do complaints matter?
Firstly, what exactly is a complaint? A complaint expresses dissatisfaction or concern about a service or experience. It might come from the feeling that the service wasn't good enough or dissatisfaction with how an NDIS plan was carried out.
Responding to these issues shows how dedicated your organisation is to providing quality person-centred care for your participants. In addition, handling complaints the right way shows that you respect the people you're serving and you're serious about giving them the best support possible.
What to do when you receive a complaint
Every organisation that works with customers should be ready and willing to hear feedback and complaints. Think of feedback as a compass. It doesn’t just point out the flaws; it guides you towards better service quality. By welcoming feedback, you're telling your clients that their voices matter. When they share their thoughts, it's essential to listen, learn from it, and not get defensive.
The way you handle a complaint is also important. Even if your team can't resolve the issue entirely or immediately, a key goal is ensuring the person feels heard and valued. It's all about the journey, not just the destination. This approach helps build trust and strong relationships with your NDIS participants.
As a mandatory requirement for NDIS-registered providers, having a system for managing and resolving complaints is not only a condition of registration but also a good practice. This aligns with the standards set by the NDIS Code of Conduct. In addition, equipping your staff with the necessary training to effectively handle complaints is also necessary.
How to respond to a complaint
The Victorian Disability Services Commissioner created an effective approach to tackle complaints. The approach was built based on the recognition that people who make a complaint are generally seeking one or more of these four outcomes:
This step is crucial because it lays the groundwork for everything that follows. Voicing a concern isn't always easy for people, so it's essential to make sure your clients know they've been heard and that their feelings matter.
Acknowledgment can include:
- Genuinely listen to your client's concerns without interrupting.
- Show empathy by putting yourself in their shoes.
- Ensure they're comfortable chatting with you. If you feel like you are being defensive, be mindful of how that might come across to your participants.
- Acknowledge the impact the issue has had on your participants.
- Ask your participants what a good outcome looks like for them.
- Keep them in the loop about what you're doing to address their complaint, but be sure not to promise something you can't deliver.
People naturally seek reasons behind actions or decisions. They want to have more clarity on what has happened to figure out their next steps to resolving their concerns. So, when providing answers, it's essential to give a straightforward explanation that directly addresses their concerns. But remember, only share what you're certain about; it's always best to stick to the facts.
People who raise concerns not only expect a resolution to their issue but also a plan that prevents similar issues from reoccurring in the future. In instances where you can not fix the issue raised, it is essential to create an action plan that prevents it from happening again. An action plan should have the following elements:
- The specific actions to be implemented.
- The individuals are responsible for implementing these actions.
- The specific implementation timeline.
- The way to communicate the progress and results to the complainant.
- How the progress of the complaint actions and implementation will be overseen.
Collaboratively developing the action plan with the complainant and any other affected individuals can ensure the action plan is tailored to resolve their concerns. In addition, it's important to regularly follow up with complainants to ensure that they are satisfied and gather feedback to improve the process.
When someone files a complaint, they're often looking for an apology as part of the resolution. Who says sorry and how they say it is very important. A heartfelt apology can help fix their issues, but if it doesn't come across as genuine, it can make the situation worse.
Usually, it's best if the apology comes directly from the person involved in the issue. But it also means a lot when someone more senior in the organisation steps in to say sorry too. That way, the person who's upset can feel like their complaint is being taken seriously.
When providing an apology, it is helpful to consider:
- Convey an apology promptly.
- Ensure the apology is delivered genuinely.
- Be concise and directly address the issue at hand.
- Acknowledge the mistake and its impact on the individual.
- Provide a brief explanation of the events that led to the situation, avoiding any justification.
- Outline the steps that have been agreed upon following the complaint.
What to do after handling complaints?
Having a system within your organisation is crucial for managing the complaints process and its resolutions. This system should also allow your team to efficiently follow up with the individual who filed the complaint, seeking their feedback on how the issue was resolved and their response to the follow-up actions.
Things to consider after handling complaints:
- Identify the core issue of the complaint: Which specific service, policy, or procedure was it related to?
- Assess the complainant's experience: How did the issue affect them or any other involved individuals, and was it resolved to their satisfaction?
- Extract actionable insights: What can the information provided by the complaint can help you improve your services, policies, and overall organizational function?
- Evaluate communication efficacy: How well did you engage with the complainant, any affected participants, staff and other stakeholders throughout the process?
- Review information accessibility: Do your participants, their families, carers and friends have clear information about their rights and how to navigate the complaints process? Has the experience empowered the complainant to voice future concerns more confidently?
- Consider system enhancements: Is there a need to change your complaints handling procedures or the overall approach to managing such issues?
- Determine training needs: Is there any additional training that your staff need to handle complaints more effectively?
- Reflect on values alignment: Did the handling of the complaint reflect your stated values and expectations for complaint handling? Or, was the complaint perceived as something negative that needed to be dealt with as quickly as possible?
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