Complaints recording and reporting
In order to respond to and manage complaints effectively, you'll need some core data and a robust recording process.
Recording a complaint
In order to investigate a complaint and monitor how effectively you've handled complaints as an organisation you'll need the following core data:
- A reference number (you can use this on all correspondence relating to a case to ensure all details can be linked and pulled together)
- Summary of the complaint
- Complainant details (for example name, contact details)
- Location details
- Type of complaint – you may wish to apply themes or topics
- Date complaint received
- Date complaint acknowledged
- Investigator name
- Date response due
- Date response sent
- Details of any escalation beyond the initial response (this may be multiple fields – eg date and details of additional correspondence, date referred to commissioner)
- Decision/ outcome
- Outcome description (what happened)
- Any learning
- Any actions
- Date case closed
A simple recording template will help you with this.
Complaints usually involve lots of correspondence, so ensure that you have a robust system for filing complaints documents within or alongside your general recording (link files together using file references if necessary).
Reporting individual complaints
Some types of complaints will need to be reported to the commissioner when they happen. If this is required it will be included in your contract and/or highlighted by your commissioner as something that needs to be introduced. Many types of services may wish to refer a complaint to the commissioner if they fall within the commissioner’s remit and can't be responded to by the service provider. That may include complaints relating to, for example:
- Levels of funding for the organisation
- Policy set by the commissioning body
- Decisions made by the commissioner
- Issues relating to the way in which the service is specified within the contract
Social care services, covered by different forms of legislation and complaints regulations, may be required to report all complaints to the commissioner as they're made. This will usually be the case if the commissioning body has placed someone in the care of the service provider, or if there are safeguarding concerns that need to be raised (this will be assessed, with the issues either taken through the safeguarding process or taken as formal complaints). The way in which individual complaints will be reported to, and handled by, the commissioning body should be clearly outlined within your complaints procedure. The commissioner would usually expect you to provide a comprehensive stage 1 response for them to review.
You can check your complaints handling processes are effective by monitoring and internally reporting some key measures. You may chose different numbers of measures depending on the size of your organisation and the volume of complaints you receive. Example measures include:
- Overall complaint numbers
- Complaints by month/quarter/year
- The average time taken to acknowledge complaints
- The average time taken to respond to a complaint
- The proportion of complaints by type (to determine whether there are patterns and whether improvement is required in any particular elements of service provision)
- Complaints by location (if the service is delivered in multiple locations there may be issues in some areas and not in others)
- The proportion of complaints upheld (see our advice on developing a complaints procedure for more detail concerning outcome of complaints)
- The proportion of complaints escalating beyond the initial response
You should also try to monitor positive comments such as compliments to ensure you have a balanced view of all customer feedback.
Although you may report internally within your organisation and to your commissioner(s) on a regular basis, you may decide to report widely once a year. Annual reports are commonly used to report customer feedback to members of the public. It's good practice to openly report on complaints and customer feedback. You could consider including the following information in your annual report, or producing a separate customer feedback report including:
- The number of complaints received
- The outcome of complaints (eg the proportion upheld)
- Complaint themes
- What the organisation has learnt from complaints and the changes made as a result
- Example compliments – such as quotes
Your service may be externally assessed/reviewed and rated. This may be through a formal process or informally through social media and other forms of customer feedback. Be open and transparent with your commissioner and report this feedback alongside your agreed performance measures. If positive, it's great news and should be highlighted. If you've had negative feedback or reports then your commissioner will be interested in how you plan to address those concerns, and implement actions to secure service improvements. Your commissioner may be able to assist using their knowledge of good practice.
As well as reporting to customers and commissioners don’t forget to report back to your staff and/or volunteers. A complaints system can generate positive improvements, and staff will be keen to learn how complaints have turned into positive actions and supported the development of better services.