The Council wants to resolve complaints, to the satisfaction of the customer, as early as possible in the process. This could mean an on-the-spot apology and explanation if something has clearly gone wrong and immediate action taken to resolve the problem.
We have a two stage procedure, ‘Frontline Resolution’ (stage 1) and ‘Investigation’ (stage 2), which allows us two opportunities to resolve the complaints internally.
STAGE 1: Frontline Resolution
On being contacted by a customer we have to determine whether the issue raised is a complaint and our staff will have to consider, on the basis of the four key questions listed below, whether the complaint is suitable for frontline resolution.
- What exactly is your complaint (or complaints)? – it is important that the member of staff is clear about what you are complaining about, this may require additional information from you and further probing to get a full understanding of the issue.
- What do you wish to achieve by complaining? – the outcome you want must be clarified at the outset in order to establish your expectations, and whether they can be satisfied.
- Can this be achieved, or must we provide an explanation as to why not? – if the expected outcome can be achieved at this point, eg, by way of an apology or by another means, then we should do it. If the expected outcome cannot be achieved then we must provide you with an explanation.
- Can it be resolved immediately, if not, who can assist in seeking Frontline Resolution? – if the member of staff is unable to deal with your complaint, eg, because they are unfamiliar with the issues or area of service involved, they should pass the details to the appropriate Departmental Complaints Co-ordinator in order that they can pursue a resolution at this stage.
Frontline resolution should be completed and you should be advised of the outcome within five working days of receipt of the complaint, although the Council expects that the resolution will be achieved as soon as possible.
In exceptional circumstances, where there are clear and justified reasons for doing so, the Council may extend the timescale for resolution for a period of no more than a further five working days. The reasons for the extension will be communicated to you.
If we can’t resolve the complaint at this stage, we will explain why and tell you that you can take your complaint to stage 2. You may choose to do this immediately or sometime after you get our initial decision.
STAGE 2: Investigation
A complaint will be escalated to this stage when
- Frontline Resolution was attempted but you remain dissatisfied.
- The issues are complex and will require detailed investigation.
- The complaint relates to issues that have been identified as serious, high risk or high profile.
Where a complaint has been escalated to stage 2, you will be sent an acknowledgement within three working days from the date on which the decision was taken to escalate it to stage 2.
You should be provided with a full and final response as soon as possible but not later than 20 working days from the date on which the decision was taken to escalate it to stage 2.
In exceptional circumstances, where there are clear and justified reasons for doing so, the investigating officer should try to agree an extension of the timescale for the response with the customer. If the customer does not agree to an extension but the reasons are unavoidable, clear and reasonable then the Head of Service or Executive Director can grant the extension.
The outcome of the investigation should be communicated to you, by letter or email, whichever is the preferred method of contact.
What if I am still dissatisfied?
If, after you have received the stage 2 response, you remain dissatisfied with the way we have dealt with your complaint you have the right to ask the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman (SPSO) to look at your complaint.
The SPSO cannot normally look at:
- a complaint that has not completed our complaints procedure (so please make sure that it has done so before contacting the SPSO)
- events that happened, or that you became aware of, more than a year ago
- a matter that has been or is being considered in court.
The SPSO’s contact details are:
Complaints involving more than one service: If your complaint relates to the actions of two or more services, then we must tell you which service will take the lead in dealing with the complaint and that you will receive one response covering all aspects of the complaint.
Complaints involving another organisation: If you make a complaint about the service of another agency or public service provider but we have no involvement in the issue then we will refer you to the appropriate organisation.
Complaints about the conduct of a Councillor: Complaints about a Councillor are not dealt with by the Council and anyone making such a complaint should contact the Public Standards Commissioner for Scotland, 39 Drumsheugh Gardens, Edinburgh EH3 7SW at www.publicstandardscommissioner.org.uk or by telephone: 0300 011 0550
Unacceptable Behaviour by Customers: We are aware that customers may act out of character in times of trouble or distress and that there may have been upsetting or distressing circumstances leading up to a complaint.
However, the actions of customers who are angry, demanding or persistent may result in unreasonable demands on Council staff or unacceptable behaviour towards them. It will be for the member of staff to determine when they consider the behaviour of a customer to be unacceptable. They should confirm to the customer that they are no longer prepared to deal with the matter and refer the customer to an appropriate line manager.
Give Feedback on Our Complaints Process
We strive to continually improve our processes and so we welcome feedback on the effectiveness of the complaints management process. Please contact us to give us your views and we will respond to every item sent to us.