Complaints Management Resources

The following resources may help agencies to establish or improve their internal complaints management processes.  They include guides on complaint handling as well as more specific reports on particular topics.  

Complaint Management - Frameworks/Policies/Guides

Effective Complaints Management Fact Sheets

This series of 14 fact sheets sets out the essential components of an effective complaints management system and provides examples of best practice.  They have been adapted from resources developed by the Queensland Ombudsman and kindly made available by that office. 

View the Effective Complaints Management Fact Sheets.

Complaint Management Framework and Model Policy

In recognition of the importance of promoting robust internal complaint handling systems in NT public sector agencies, the Office of the Ombudsman has undertaken a joint project with the Power and Water Corporation, Jacana Energy and the Department of Business to develop a Complaint Management Framework and Model Policy for the NTPS.

Complaint Management Framework - NT Ombudsman, June 2016

Complaint Management Model Policy - NT Ombudsman, June 2016

Complaints: Good Practice Guide for Public Sector Agencies

Similar to the NT Ombudsman Guide this guide by the Victorian Ombudsman's Office aims to help agencies handle complaints well. It outlines the guiding principles and practical steps involved in the three key stages of good complaint handling 

Complaints: Good Practice Guide for Public Sector Agencies - Ombudsman Victoria, September 2016

Complaint Management Framework

A Framework and Model Policy intended to assist organisations to implement a complaint management system that will ensure the efficient and effective handling of complaints made to or about them. The Framework provides organisations with guidance on best practice principles of complaint management, as outlined in the Australian and New Zealand Standard on complaint management in organisations. It aims to help organisations understand what is involved in establishing a comprehensive and effective complaint management system and provides a self-assessment checklist for each component of such a system.

Complaint Management Framework - Ombudsman NSW, June 2015

Better practice guide to complaint handling

Better practice guide to complaint handling - Commonwealth Ombudsman, April 2009

Smart complaining

Two page fact sheet that sets out "tips to help you increase your chances of having your complaint understood and acted upon, and making it more likely (though that's not guaranteed) you will get the result you want."
Smart Complaining Information Sheet - Ombudsman NSW, June 2016 

Effective Complaint Handling Guidelines (2nd ed)

Effective Complaint Handling Guidelines (2nd ed) Ombudsman NSW, 2010

Guidelines on Complaint Handling

Detailed guidelines on complaint handling in the public sector.

Guidelines on Complaint Handling - Ombudsman WA, March 2016

Effective Handling of Complaints made to your Organisation

An 8 page overview of effective complaint handling elements.

Effective handling of complaints made to your organisation - An Overview - Ombudsman WA, March 2016

Complaint handling systems Checklist

Complaint Handling systems ChecklistOmbudsman WA, 2011

Making your complaint handling system accessible

Making your complaint handling system accessibleOmbudsman WA, 2010

Grumbles, Gripes and Grievances: The role of complaints in transforming public services

This paper proposes that public services should shift from a traditional ‘service delivery’ model to a ‘relational model’ where service delivery is about ‘working with’ clients rather than delivery of services ‘to’ or perhaps ‘at’ clients.  Its major focus is on social service provision but the approach has general application to provision of public services.  It provides a plethora of concrete examples of what it describes as ‘complaint-led innovations’.  These are improvements in processes and professional development in public sector agencies that have come about due to particular complaints and the involvement of stakeholders. 

Grumbles, Gripes and Grievances: The role of complaints in transforming public servicesR Simmons & C Brennan, NESTA (UK), 2013

Complaint Management Framework

Complaint Management Framework - Ombudsman SA, March 2016

Complaint handling: outsourcing

Complaint handling: outsourcing - Commonwealth Ombudsman

Better practice guide to managing unreasonable complainant conduct

Better practice guide to managing unreasonable complainant conduct Commonwealth Ombudsman, June 2009

Unreasonable Complainant Conduct – Model Policy and Procedure 

Unreasonable Complainant Conduct – Model Policy and Procedure - Ombudsman NSW, February 2013

Managing Unreasonable Complainant Conduct - Practice Manual, 2nd ed.

Managing Unreasonable Complainant Conduct - Practice Manual, 2nd ed. - Ombudsman NSW, May 2012

Good practice guidelines for internal complaint processes

Good practice guidelines for internal complaint processes - Australian Human Rights Commission

Complaint handling at universities: Australasian best practice guidelines (NT edition)

For many years, Ombudsman offices of Australia and New Zealand have been giving detailed advice to a range of organisations in their jurisdictions and many have published complaint handling guides. Those offices have decided it would be useful to put together some of the information in these guidelines and tailor it specifically for tertiary institutions.

Complaint handling at universities: Australasian best practice guidelines (NT edition) NT Ombudsman, 2016

Councils and complaints – A good practice guide

Local government practice guide developed as a result of the enquiry.

Councils and complaints – A good practice guide Ombudsman Victoria, Feb 2015

Guidance on a Model Complaints Handling Procedure

A Scottish publication "designed to provide broad direction and support to public service providers in improving their complaints handling procedures. ... Underpinning the guidance is the ethos of 'getting it right first time'. The emphasis is firmly on quicker, simpler and more streamlined complaints handling with local, early resolution by empowered and well trained staff. Complaints should address customer dissatisfaction by providing a quick, fair and considered response to complaints, explaining clearly the reasons for any disagreement with the service user's position, and using the lessons learned from complaints to improve service delivery issues. Whilst recognising that each service provider has their own way of working and has unique staffing and operational considerations, the guidance is designed to be followed by all service providers."

Guidance on a Model Complaints Handling Procedure Scottish Public Services Ombudsman, 2011

Complaint management - Investigations

Breaking down the barriers: Older people and complaints about health care

"People are more likely to need to use health care services as they enter later life. Yet when it comes to complaining about poor care, evidence gathered for this report shows that older people are often reluctant to speak up or simply don't know how to. Through a combination of personal testimonies from focus groups with older people, information from a national survey, and evidence from casework, the report highlights the significant barriers that older people can face when looking to complain about their care. The report concludes that older people:

  • Lack information about how to complain, and don't know where to go;
  • Don't want to make a fuss and worry about what will happen if they do;
  • Feel complaining would make little difference; and
  • Can lack support to complain.

The report makes a number of recommendations to improve older people's experience of the complaints system.

Breaking down the barriers: Older people and complaints about health care - Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman, United Kingdom, December 2015

Learning to get better: An investigation by the Ombudsman into how public hospitals handle complaints 

Investigation by the Office of the Irish Ombudsman into how public hospitals in Ireland handle complaints about their services. In particular, it looks at how well the HSE and public hospitals (including voluntary hospitals) listen to feedback and complaints and whether the HSE and public hospitals are learning from complaints to improve the services they provide.  There are detailed recommendations about process that may provide a useful checklist for officers involved in developing complaint handling processes.
Learning to get better: An investigation by the Ombudsman into how public hospitals handle complaints: Executive Summary and Recommendations Ombudsman Ireland, 2015

Complaint management by government agencies: an investigation into the management of complaints by Commonwealth and ACT government

The report describes and analyses the challenges experienced by government agencies in their day-to-day management of complaints. It gathers together the main areas of difficulty and, wherever possible, the solutions that agencies have put in place to address those challenges.  It finds that complaint management has improved noticeably since the Commonwealth Ombudsman first conducted a survey in 1996, particularly among agencies with high numbers of transactions with members of the public.  Compared to 20 years ago, agencies are more aware of the value of complaints to business improvement, and more focussed on resolving issues and meeting customer or client expectations.  However, there are still a number of areas where complaint management could improve. The investigation surveyed agencies, analysed complaints made to the Ombudsman’s office, and held a series of roundtables with representative groups. In responding to the survey, agencies identified those areas of complaint management that they found most challenging. As a result of that analysis, the report identifies three areas as the highest priority for improvement: vulnerable people, focus on resolution and use of complaint information to inform business.
Complaint management by government agencies: an investigation into the management of complaints by Commonwealth and ACT government - Commonwealth Ombudsman, 2014

An audit of state government agencies’ complaint handling

This report examines the systems and processes in place for South Australian government agencies to respond to complaints from the public and makes recommendations for improvement.  It revealed a lack of planning and consistency in complaint handling practices.
An audit of state government agencies’ complaint handlingOmbudsman SA, 2014

Investigation into service delivery complaints about Centrelink

Report.  While this report deals with a number of issues unique to Centrelink it also has useful discussion about service delivery in general, including telephone, online and written services.  It also discusses issues relating to service delays, records management and internal complaint handling and review.

Investigation into service delivery complaints about CentrelinkCommonwealth Ombudsman, April 2014

Councils and complaints – A report on current practice and issues

An enquiry was launched by the Victorian Ombudsman in 2014 when staff in the office identified that one of the main causes of complaints against local councils was the way those councils dealt with complaints. All too often complaints were seen as a nuisance, or provoked a defensive, bureaucratic or unhelpful response. Yet complaints are one of the most valuable sources of data available to councils. They represent free feedback about services and, if used effectively, are a catalyst for service improvement. Good complaint handling increases confidence in public administration. On the other hand, mishandled complaints can carry a high potential cost – both financial and reputational.

Councils and complaints – A report on current practice and issuesOmbudsman Victoria, Feb 2015

Complaint resolution and investigation

A guide to complaints resolution

The guide is supported by training materials relating to Communication Skills and Complaints and Complaint Handling for Managers.
A guide to complaints resolutionNT Health & Community Services Complaints Commissioner, 2016

The use of external investigators by NSW Government agencies

A discussion paper in which the NSW Ombudsman identifies a large number of issues that can arise when an agency engages external investigators. As the paper notes, the engagement of external investigators is becoming far more common with the closure or reduction in size of internal investigative units. However, this new approach raises its own challenges for agencies.
The use of external investigators by NSW Government agencies: Discussion PaperNSW Ombudsman, July 2016

The role of the Ombudsman in conflict resolution

A variety of articles relating to the role and functioning of the Ombudsman in conflict resolution. Includes Conflict resolution at universities: Ombudsman mediation as a tool? (Josef Leidenfrost, Austria) — A complaint to the ombudsman – viewed from three different perspectives (Friedrich Glasl, Austria) — Ombudsman mediation in Namibia (Angela Mickley, Germany) — The Ombudsman under the banner of heterogeneity and permanence (Sascha Ferz and Karin Sonnleitner, Austria) — Conflict Escalation by Complainants (Chris Wheeler, Australia).
The role of the Ombudsman in conflict resolution - International Ombudsman Institute, May 2016

Remedies

Providing Remedies fact sheet

A six page fact sheet on approaches that public sector agencies can take to providing remedies for poor administration.
Providing Remedies fact sheet Commonwealth Ombudsman

Compensation for defective administration

Compensation for defective administrationCommonwealth Ombudsman

Apologies: A Practical Guide

Apologies: A Practical Guide - Ombudsman NSW

Options for redress

Options for redress - Ombudsman NSW

Remedies and redress

Remedies and redress - Ombudsman WA

Being customer focussed (apologies)

Being customer focussed (apologies) - Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (UK), webpage

Our guidance on apology

Our guidance on apologyScottish Public Services Ombudsman