The true value of complaints

This year at Riverside we have launched Our Riverside Way along with three new values; “We care”, “We are courageous” and “We are trusted”.  There is no better way of demonstrating these values than through how we handle complaints from our customers. There will be occasions when we get things wrong and as Complaints Manager I see this every day. I also know that a complaint is our first opportunity to try to put things right for our customers and again I see how teams around the business also demonstrate this every day.

I am part of a small team consisting of myself and two complaints officers. Whilst it is often thought that we manage complaints across the group, it’s actually the front line staff that manage complaints in each business area. The complaints team manage compliance of complaints and provide specialist support group wide, we assist with managing complaints at Stage 2 and above and focus on providing a resolution for our customers. We also manage any complaints that are reviewed by the Housing Ombudsman Service. The most important work the team has done over the last 12 months is the continuous support and advice offered group wide during Transformation and the creation of best practice workshops for complaint handlers using feedback from our customers.

Complaints are often perceived as negative and this is where as an organisation we must change as it’s the information provided by our customers that will help Riverside make the changes needed to improve our services and customer satisfaction.

This is something that we need to improve on but business areas are recording more ‘lessons learnt’ on each complaint and working to identify the main areas of dissatisfaction and identify if they can make any changes to our processes or procedure or training. Repairs is the biggest area of dissatisfaction and generates the highest number of complaints and this year Asset Services will be reviewing the Gas Servicing procedure and Repairs Priorities as a result of customer feedback.

Responding to and resolving complaints effectively has always been important here at Riverside and whilst I know that we are not where we need to be, we are most definitely on a journey of continuous improvement with complaints handling top priority.

In January 2019 a review was undertaken of the Complaints Team Function -although many of the objectives had been achieved and improvements had been made it was noted that Customer Satisfaction for complaint handling had dropped below 40% as per the STAR Survey. We also recorded the highest number of complaints. Executive Directors have responded to this by introducing scrutiny of complaints at the highest level, and we have shown real progress.

So what’s happening now?

Complaints numbers are decreasing, we are handling complaints quicker and recording more learning outcomes and customer satisfaction has also improved.

We have an improved reporting system in Tableau, and have changed the way our customers are surveyed. A scrutiny review was carried out by members of the Riverside Customer Voice Executive which provided great insight and included staff views from around the group.

And what next?

Our Complaints Improvement is well under way and there are clear objectives, some will be quick wins, others will take longer and focus needs to around embedding in a new Riverside Way in complaint handling.

The implementation plan for the Social Housing Green Paper is due to be released in September (although may be delayed as Brexit is currently top of the parliamentary agenda!). This will impact on our plans, policies and processes going forward so we have this on our radar.

The most important thing we can do is listen what our customers tell us and learn from it.

Justine Lennon – Complaints Manager