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Saving the World one complaint at a time

by Lynne Campbell | Posted in Complaints management solutions | 13 February 2014

My last blog post was about the cost of complaints. But what about the non-financial costs of complaints? Or to put it another way: the benefits of complaints.

On a recent night out I was asked what I do for a living. When I said I do marketing for Workpro complaints management software the response was "Goodness! There is software for everything these days". The implication was clear - some people think that software to help us complain more quickly and effectively  is unnecessary.

The difference a complaint can make

A mini crisis ensued as I wondered if I should do something more valuable for the world …but then I thought about the benefits of complaints!

People do genuinely suffer from the effects of poor service; organisations genuinely do sometimes have to be brought to account; and ways to help people do this more effectively are important! People have been hugely helped by Ombudsman and other schemes whose purpose is to handle complaints.

This realisation made me feel much better. So I thought I would research examples of the difference a complaint can make:

A Liverpool Echo article  (6th Jan 2014) highlighted the success of the Local Government Ombudsman (LGO) in getting money to vulnerable people who need it. The LGO found that Liverpool Council had underpaid foster carers and special guardians (people who are appointed by the court to take care of the children of relatives or friends) and as a result the Council will pay out a total of £1.25m to people owed these payments. The problem came to light because of a single complaint to the LGO but the Ombudsman’s ruling has benefited 172 special guardians so far, as well as many foster carers.

A recent BBC report  looked at a review of housing complaints by the LGO, in which the LGO warned that Councils were putting more and more homeless families into bed and breakfast accommodation and described it as a "worrying trend". It highlighted specific cases of individuals and families who had been forced to stay in unsuitable accommodation for long periods of time, for example the story of a family of five allocated a single room to live in for five months. This analysis of complaints is being used to put pressure on the Government to provide suitable housing - a matter of real and urgent importance to the families involved.

The websites of the main UK ombudsman schemes include many case studies; examples of complaints made and the resulting action taken. These "name and shame" the parties involved; they bring resolution where people have sometimes waited years (see, for example, "Ending a six year wait for compensation" on the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman website) and importantly they make recommendations so that the problems do not occur again.

Finally, the Public Administration Select Committee is conducting an inquiry  entitled "Complaints: do they make a difference?" If it finds that they do then that's more proof. I am helping to save the world after all!

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