Customer Complaints Management Policy

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Customer Complaints Management Policy

Effective date: 10/12/2014 Version: 2.00


1. Purpose

This policy is designed to ensure the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection (EHP) customer complaint management system is effective and provides consistent processes for:

receiving, recording, responding to and reporting on complaints about the services, products or actions of the department or its staff when providing those services;

analysing and identifying opportunities to improve service delivery; and

promoting public confidence in the department’s actions and decisions by being open and transparent in the management of complaints, compliments and comments.

2. Business Improvement

Complaint management is both an accountability mechanism and an important part of customer service. It should not only deal with and resolve complaints, but also use the resultant data to identify those areas where service, processes and systems are operating well and those that can be improved. Managers should regularly analyse complaints to identify potential hot spots and areas for improvement.

3. EHP Complaint Management Framework

The EHP Complaint Management Framework is designed to ensure each complaint is addressed within the appropriate complaint-handling process. Complaints fall into a number of categories: some relate solely to service delivery; others trigger a statutory right of appeal or review; others may involve aspects of both.

Upon receipt, a complaint should be correctly categorised and referred to the appropriate officer in accordance with this policy as detailed below. The diagram below illustrates the various complaint categories, the relevant policy or procedure and the key contact for managing each of those categories.


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EHP Complaint Management Framework

Customer complaints - EHP products and services

Customer complaints –

breaches of privacy

Employee misconduct complaints

Employee corrupt conduct/Public

Interest Disclosures

Other complaints Employee

complaints Type of ComplaintDefinition / descriptionRelevant Policy / procedureKey contact

Customer expression of dissatisfaction about EHP services, products, decisions or actions of staff

Expression of dissatisfaction relating to a breach in respect of privacy information

EHP Information Privacy Compliance Policy & Information Privacy Complaint Management Procedure

Director, Executive Services, Governance and Strategy Workforce Relations

and Safety, Corporate Human Resources Principal Project

Officer, Privacy and Proactive Disclosure Services, Governance and Strategy

Client Engagement Unit, Corporate Communications

Code of Conduct;

Appropriate Behaviour Policy;

Investigation and Discipline Procedure

Corrupt Conduct Management Policy and Procedure;

Public Interest Disclosure Policy and Procedure

Employee Complaints Management Policy and Procedure

Refer to the EHP Internet Complaints page

Customer Complaints Management Policy and Procedure (this procedure)

Employee conduct that contravenes the expected behaviours of the Code of Conduct

Employee conduct that meets the Crime and Corruption Commission definition

Examples include:

employment circumstances; a decision or action perceived as unfair, workplace harassment

Examples include:

wildlife or environment regulation/legislation

Manager, Supervisor, and/or Human Resources

Refer to the EHP Internet Complaints page


CHC/2013/315 Customer Complaints Management Policy v2.00 Page 3 of 10 4. Policy

EHP is committed to delivering high quality services and welcomes customer feedback as an important accountability mechanism and a highly valued means for meeting our legal obligations and monitoring and improving our service efficiency and organisational effectiveness.

Customers can express satisfaction or dissatisfaction with departmental products, services, performance or staff.

The customer may lodge a formal complaint if:

the complaint triggers a statutory right of review or appeal;

cannot otherwise be addressed informally; or

could not be resolved informally.

EHP is committed to ensuring that all complaints are managed in a responsive, efficient, effective and fair manner and that complainants are treated with respect throughout the complaints process.

If it is appropriate to do so, every effort will be made to resolve complaints informally at the time of initial contact with the department, and to the satisfaction of the complainant.

5. Authority

Public Service Act 2008 (section 219A).

6. Application This policy applies to:

permanent, temporary and casual public service employees

contractors and consultants

volunteers, school-based trainees, scholarship holders. work experience placements and other placements within the department.

7. Scope

This policy applies to complaints made to the department about the service or an action of the department or its staff, by a customer who is apparently directly affected by the service or action. That affect can arise from, for example:

a decision or failure to make a decision;

an act, or failure to act;

the formulation of a proposal or intention;

a recommendation;

customer service.

8. Other complaint/review mechanisms

This policy does not replace pre-existing processes for dealing with complaints, which must be used. Such processes most often exist under statute (and are accompanied by departmental policies) and include:

review and appeal provisions in the Environmental Protection Act 1994

review provisions in the Nature Conservation Act 1992

the internal review provision in the Right to Information Act 2009

the complaint handling provision in the Information Privacy Act 2009;

the processes for dealing with an allegation of corrupt conduct under the Crime and Corruption Act 2001; and

the disciplinary process in the Public Service Act 2008

Officers within Business and Professional Services, Corporate Services are available to assist if it is unclear if a complaint should be addressed under a pre-existing complaint mechanism.

9. Ministerial and EHP correspondence

Business areas are responsible for deciding if correspondence received (e.g. through the Ministerial and Director- General correspondence) contains a complaint.


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The response times and processes applying to Ministerial and EHP correspondence apply to complaints contained in that correspondence.

10. EHP Customer Complaint Management System

There are five steps in EHP’s customer complaint management system:

Steps 1, 2 and 5 are the usual steps followed when dealing with complaints covered by this policy.

Steps 3 and 4 are followed as required or when requested.

Once a complaint is resolved, the next step of ‘monitor and review’ is essential for business improvement and informed decision making.

11. Principles

The department’s complaint management system is founded on the best practice Australian Standard – Customer satisfaction – Guidelines for complaints handling in organizations, as required by the Public Service Act, 2008.

Principles Actions the department will take

Visibility and access

Information on how to lodge a complaint will be published on the department’s internet web site and staff will assist customers, if required.

Information includes: timeframes for resolution, how the complainant will be informed of progress and resolution of the complaint.

Lodgement methods include: in writing using the online complaint form; a handwritten complaint form, or by email or letter. Complaints can also be submitted orally by telephone or face to face at any EHP publicly accessible office. Anonymous complaints can also be lodged.

EHP provides assistance to clients from non‐English speaking backgrounds and people with a disability to make a complaint.


Complaints will be promptly acknowledged and taken seriously.

The complainant will be treated courteously and kept informed of progress.

The department values all feedback, including complaints and is committed to resolving them in a timely manner.

Complaints are recorded and tracked, timeframes for resolution are monitored and complainants are entitled to reasonable progress reports.

Anonymous complaints will be treated in the same manner as other complaints.

Assessment and action

Complaints are assessed and allocated to the relevant business area for action.

Complaints will be addressed in a fair, objective and unbiased manner.

A complaint determined to be vexatious, trivial or abusive will not be investigated, and the complainant will be informed of this decision in writing.

Complaints will be recorded using the relevant systems to meet statutory and reporting requirements.


CHC/2013/315 Customer Complaints Management Policy v2.00 Page 5 of 10 Principles Actions the department will take

Confidentiality Complainant’s personal information will only be used for addressing the complaint and only disclosed with consent, in line with the Information Privacy Act 2009.

Complaint resolution

Resolving complaints at the local level or point of service is the first option.

An investigation plan/approach will be prepared where appropriate and recorded accordingly.

The complainant will be contacted if further information is needed.

Natural justice, including procedural fairness will be applied throughout the process where the circumstances require.


When required, an investigation report will be completed that clearly sets out the complaint issues, relevant laws, policies or procedures, information is gathered and considered and includes the findings, recommendations and result or outcome.

Adequate and timely feedback is provided to complainants.

Complainants are notified of available review mechanisms. If a complainant is unsatisfied with the outcome of their complaint they may request an internal review. If a complainant remains unsatisfied with the outcome after internal review, they may seek external review.

Potential system improvements revealed by complaints are identified by the area responsible and reported for reference.

Monitoring effectiveness and reporting

The Executive Management Team will be provided with reports on any trends, numbers and resolutions.

Numbers of complaints and resolutions will be included in the department’s Annual Report for external scrutiny.

EHP will monitor complaints, compliments and comments data to identify potential opportunities for improvement.

Resources and training

Staff will receive relevant training and resources in how to manage the complaints process, as required.

All staff and contractors working with the public on behalf of the department will be made aware of their responsibilities when dealing with complaints, compliments and comments. Staff with roles in handling complaints, including customer service staff, will be appropriately trained.

Where complaint handling is a significant part of an employee’s role, achievement of procedural timeframes will be included in the employee’s Professional and Development Planning Agreement.

12. Timeframes

Complaints are to be classified by complexity to ensure complaints are addressed consistently and appropriately. A complaint’s complexity category can be escalated or downgraded in response to investigation findings or after the receipt of further information from the complainant. Complaint reclassification should be recorded on both the complaint file and in the complaint register.

Standard ministerial response times and processes will continue to apply to complaints received through ministerial correspondence or contact. All other complaints will be resolved within the timeframes that apply to the following complexity classifications:


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Classification Description Timeframe

Simple A complaint that is resolved at the point of service.

Resolved immediately at point of service.

Standard A complaint that usually has only one single issue or concern.

Resolved within 30 working days of receipt.

Complex A complaint that has multiple issues and/or is serious in nature and usually requires an extensive investigation.

Resolved within 70 working days of receipt.

13. Classification of Complaints

Complaints will be recorded according to the classifications set out below to assist EHP to:

ensure complaints are dealt within the appropriate process; and/or

identify business improvement opportunities.

Classification Description

Service delivery A complaint relating to how a service is provided including timeliness, quality or cost of the service.

Staff conduct A complaint about an administrative decision and/or the behaviour of a staff member when providing a service.

Administrative decision A complaint about a decision made by an EHP officer when providing a service.

Policy /procedure A complaint about the process followed to provide a service.

Statutory A complaint about a decision/action that is covered by a process provided for outside this policy

14. Privacy and Confidentiality

EHP manages information collected in the course of dealing with customer complaints in accordance with the Information Privacy Act 2009 and the EHP Information Privacy Compliance Policy.

EHP receives in confidence any information in a customer complaint and/or collected in the course of addressing a customer complaint that has the necessary quality of confidence. EHP will only use or disclose such information to the extent that doing so is not a misuse. A misuse does not include a use or disclosure that is obliged or authorised by law.

15. Bias/Conflict of Interest

An officer who has had previous dealings with an issue that is the subject of a complaint should remove themselves from dealing with the complaint. This will avoid any possible bias or the perception of bias. The importance of applying this principle increases with the significance of the issue that is the subject of the complaint. For example, while it is unlikely a complaint into a minor service issue will raise questions about the independence and/or objectivity of those dealing with it, more care should be taken to avoid any bias when dealing with a complaint on a more

substantive, complex or contentious issue.

Similarly, an officer should remove themselves from dealing with a complaint if they believe they may have a conflict of interest (either actual or perceived). Any such instances must be managed in accordance with the EHP Conflict of Interest Procedure.


CHC/2013/315 Customer Complaints Management Policy v2.00 Page 7 of 10 16. Deciding not to investigate a complaint under this policy

There are circumstances in which it is appropriate not to investigate a complaint. They include where:

the department is not the correct agency to address the concern (to which the complainant must be referred);

there is an existing right of appeal or review available to the complainant (to which the complainant must be referred);

the matter is currently being addressed, or has already been adequately addressed, by an external agency, court or tribunal; or

the matter has been previously investigated and all review options have been exhausted.

17. Refusing to investigate a complaint

The department can refuse to investigate a complaint because:

the complainant does not have sufficient direct interest in the issue;

the resources required to handle the complaint are disproportionate to the likely outcome, and the matter cannot be addressed through less resource-intensive means;

it is impractical to investigate a matter due to the length of time that has passed since it occurred; and/or

after assessment the complaint is determined to be trivial, frivolous or vexatious or is not made in good faith.

Refusing to deal with a complaint is a serious decision that should only be made after considering all reasonable options for addressing the issue. Marginal cases, in terms of the substance of the complaint or the decision to investigate, must always be decided in the favour of the customer, such that the complaint is not refused.

When the investigation of a complaint has been refused, the customer may pursue the issue through other means, such as by lodging the complaint with the Office of the Queensland Ombudsman.

A complaint that may qualify for refusal on any of the above grounds must be referred to local management for resolution. If the manager to whom a complaint is referred has any doubts about the appropriateness of refusing the complaint, the issue must either:

not be refused; or

referred to a more senior manager for consideration and decision.

Officers from Business and Professional Services, Corporate Services are available to assist managers tasked with deciding if a complaint should be refused.

18. Internal Review

If a complainant is not satisfied with the department’s response to a complaint, they can request an internal review of that response. Unless there is a specific, legitimate reason not to review the complaint (such as that the complaint relates to a statutory decision that does not provide for a review), the review is to be conducted within 20 business days of the request being received in EHP.

If the review cannot be finalised within 20 business days, a letter is to be sent to the complainant explaining the reason for the delay, and indicating a date upon which the review will be finalised and communicated in writing to the complainant.

19. Further review

If a complainant remains dissatisfied after the Internal Review stage, they may have the right to pursue the issue with the Queensland Ombudsman.

Further, if the outcome of the internal review constitutes a decision of an administrative character (including a failure to make a decision) for the purposes of the Judicial Review Act 1991, the complainant may have standing to apply to the Supreme Court to have the decision subjected to a Statutory Order of Review, and also to seek a Statement of Reasons explaining the decision.

Any issues arising under the Ombudsman Act 2001 or the Judicial Review Act 1991 will be dealt with on a case-by- case basis.


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Officers from Business and Professional Services, Corporate Services are available to assist with any issues relating to the Ombudsman, while In-House Legal (based in the Department of Natural Resources and Mines) is responsible for addressing issues that arise under the Judicial Review Act 1991.

20. Recordkeeping and Communication

As required by the Public Records Act 2002, a full and accurate record must be made and kept of the actions taken in response to a complaint (including a decision to refuse to deal with a complaint). That record should be appropriate to the circumstances. For example, recording the actions taken in addressing and deciding a simple complaint will not necessitate the same amount of detail as recording a decision not to uphold a complex complaint or a decision to refuse to deal with a complaint.

Any substantial decision made in response to a complaint (including a decision to refuse the complaint) must be communicated in writing to the complainant and include a statement explaining the reasons for the decision. As with any other record made in the course of dealing with a complaint, an explanatory statement should be in a form appropriate to the circumstances.

21. Definitions and glossary of terms

Bias - An inclination or prejudice, real or perceived, for or against one person or group, especially in a way considered to be unfair.

Complaint - An expression of dissatisfaction made to the department by a customer about the services, service delivery, products, decisions or actions of the department or its staff that is of sufficient substance that it warrants recording.

For example, an expression of discontent about the temperature in an office that does not suggest a systemic issue and which can be resolved by adjusting the air conditioning does not warrant recording. It is therefore not a complaint for the purposes of this policy.

Complaints management system - The policy, procedures, personnel and technology used by the department to receive, record, respond to and report on complaints.

Conflict of Interest – A conflict between a public official’s duties and responsibilities in serving the public interest, and the public official’s personal interests (including interests of the public official, the public official’s partner and/or the public official’s dependents), which can arise due to avoiding personal losses, as well as gaining personal advantage, whether financial or otherwise.

Customer – A person, company or organisation with whom the department has dealings. This term includes clients and stakeholders.

Necessary quality of confidence – A complaint or information that is received in a confidential way (and identified as confidential) and is not already in the public domain.

Trivial, frivolous, vexatious or not made in good faith – A complaint that:

has little weight, worth or importance, such that it is not worthy of serious notice;

is brought without sufficient grounds, solely to cause annoyance; or

is not brought sincerely or with an honest intention to address the issue that is the subject of the complaint.

22. Further information

For further information, please contact the Executive Director, Governance and Strategy, telephone 3330 5747.

23. Policy Review

This policy will be reviewed two years after the date of approval


CHC/2013/315 Customer Complaints Management Policy v2.00 Page 9 of 10 24. Approval

Signed: Signed


Jon Black Director-General,

Department of Environment and Heritage Protection

Date: 10 December 2014

25. Version history

Date Version Action Description / comments

20 August 2012 0.1 draft

27 August 2012 0.2 Incorporating feedback from A/ED G&S, Steve


31 August 2012 0.3 For consultation

28 September 2012

0.4 Incorporating comments from Corporate


30 October 2012 1.0 For approval

December 2014 2.0 Policy review Policy restructured and updated

26. Keywords

Customer; complaint; dissatisfaction; services; customer service.


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