Compliments, Suggestions and Complaints
Aim of Policy
For the purposes of this Policy, ForViva and group members are referred to as ‘the Group’. The Group members to which this policy applies are ForViva, City West Housing Trust Limited, Villages Housing Association and Villages Community Housing Association and ForHousing except where the local authority is the landlord.
This Policy sets out the Group’s approach to offering a simple and accessible customer complaints process that ensures complaints are dealt with fairly, impartially, consistently and in a timely manner when things go wrong.
This Policy does not apply where the Group is delivering services on behalf of another organisation, where the Group will usually adopt the other organisation’s own complaints policy. Similarly, organisations providing services on behalf of the Group will usually be expected to adopt and comply with this Policy.
The Group defines a ‘compliment’ as feedback that a service has been provided well or that employee has been helpful.
The Group defines a ‘suggestion’ as an idea or opinion on how a service could be improved.
The Group defines a complaint as feedback received, whether justified or not, when someone is not satisfied with an action or lack of action, or about the standard of a service. The Group encourages customers to give feedback when they are not satisfied with the service they have received. Examples include:
• delays in responding to enquiries and requests;
• failing to provide a service that would usually be the Group’s responsibility to provide;
• failing to meet the service standards the Group has promised to deliver; and/or
• failing to follow Group procedures.
The Group cannot deal with the following through this Policy:
- requests for specific services - for example first reports of a repair or of neighbour nuisance;
- appeals or disputes for decisions made under other Group policies, procedures or processes;
- issues that are in court or have already been heard by a court or tribunal, or where legal action has been taken;
- complaints about employees that would usually be handled via HR policies; and/or
- insurance claims that would normally be covered by home contents insurance -insurance claims, including personal injury claims, will be referred to the Group’s insurers and will not be handled as a complaint.
Where issues do not fall under the scope of this Policy, the Group will explain to the customer why these will not be handled as a complaint and, where appropriate, advise the customer of the relevant policies to handle these issues.
The Group will offer customers a range of methods to make a complaint and will publicise this widely, including who to contact, how it will be dealt with and what response should be expected.
The Group will deal with complaints confidentially, fairly, impartially and consistently. Where possible, complaints will be resolved as soon as possible, preferably informally, making sure that what the customer wants to see happen as a result of their feedback is understood.
Customers will be advised on how to escalate the complaint to the next stage if they do not feel that the initial response addresses all of the issues they have raised in their complaint. The Group will not usually escalate a complaint based on a disagreement with the decision unless there is evidence that it has failed to consider all information available at the time and where this may have affected the overall outcome.
Customers will be informed of actions taken in response to their feedback and the outcomes following investigation of their escalated complaint. Decisions will be objective, evidence based and respond to the issues raised. Where the escalated complaint is fully or partly upheld, responses will include an explanation of what went wrong, what steps will be taken to prevent a recurrence and what redress can be offered. Where the Group is at fault it will apologise and give customers an explanation as to why things went wrong and how it will be put them right, where possible, to return the customer to the position they would have been in had the service failure not happened.
The Group will usually accept complaints within six months of the event the complaint is about, or the customer found out that they have a reason to complain, but no longer than 12 months after the event itself. The Group will exercise discretion when considering whether to accept a complaint submitted outside of these timescales.
The Group will accept complaints which meet the complaints criteria from anyone and respond to these complaints within published timescales. This includes people who may be acting on a complainant's behalf, such as a friend or family member, an advocate, Councillor, Board Member, Committee Member, Member of Parliament, advice agency or a solicitor. The Group will exercise discretion when considering whether to accept a complaint submitted without signed permission. Where complaints have been received via a Councillor, MP or recognised advice agency, the Group will assume that consent has been granted.
Where the complaint is fully or partly upheld, a range of remedies will be considered to ‘Put things right’ including:
- an apology;
- an explanation giving a full answer to all points raised in the complaint;
- an assurance that every effort will be made to ensure the same thing does not happen again. This must be matched by action and monitoring of the complaint;
- action taken to put things right – demonstrable action to show that complaint has been taken seriously;
- a review of policies and procedures;
- staff guidance or training; and
- financial or other forms of compensation or reimbursement.
Financial or other forms of compensation or reimbursement will not be used because something went wrong, but because the Group has been unable to put it right.
Discretionary compensation will be considered where service failure has been identified that causes exceptional inconvenience, stress, disturbance or annoyance. Any offers the Group makes to pay discretionary compensation will be made on the basis that it does not constitute an admission of legal liability. Where a debt is owed to the Group and discretionary compensation is awarded, such as for inconvenience, stress, disturbance or annoyance, this will be credited directly to the rent account or, where appropriate, offset against any debts held in sub accounts. However, if the compensation is meant to be used for a specific purpose, such as to replace a damaged item or reimburse for minor costs that were more than would routinely be required for pursuing a complaint, this will usually be paid directly to the customer unless they agree for the payment to be offset against any debt as above.
The Group will use compliments, suggestions and complaints to review and improve services and inform future business decisions.
How the Policy Will be Delivered
This Policy will be delivered by all departments within the Group and co-ordinated by the Business Excellence Team.
The Group will train and empower employees involved in dealing with complaints, including responding to feedback positively, quickly, fairly, and not defensively, providing swift informal resolution wherever possible. Training is also provided to customers who are involved in the monitoring, review and resolution of complaints.
The Group will record and monitor compliments, suggestions and complaints received and use this feedback in the review of policies and procedures.
The Group will maintain a performance management framework to monitor, report and review performance in complaints handling. Information about complaints will be shared with stakeholders by a number of channels.
If employees become aware that there are problems with effective operation of this Policy or the associated procedures, they should report this to the Policy Owner. This feedback will be incorporated into the policy and procedural review process.
The Group will:
- record and monitor all compliments, suggestions and complaints received and use them to review policies and procedures;
- maintain a performance management framework to monitor, report and review performance in complaints handling; and
- involve customers in reviewing targets and use benchmarking information to ensure that targets are challenging.