Complaints provide the feedback that KPI's hate
Complaints provide the feedback from our consumers of services that we don't want to hear, yet provide the strongest source of improvement. At the same time 45 per cent of consumers are unhappy with how their complaint is handled - so are we learning or ignoring?
An American General once said, “If you don't like change, you'll like irrelevance even less”. Hopefully, there will not be a time where public services are irrelevant, but it is paramount for them to evolve and innovate, and the best way to do that is through feedback.
Complaining has two functions: the first is to resolve an issue; the second is to tell us where we can go further and improve on what we have. With KPI's, complaints become a negative and, to be honest, if you are receiving the complaint, it is always going to be negative. The harder part is to stand back and look at what was the cause and why.
As part of that we need to consider how we engage with the consumers of services. These consumers often find it a battle to deal with public services, the same as they do for their key service providers, because we build our complaints process around our processes and our KPI's rather than the way we would want to engage with these services. By making complaints harder, you reduce complaints and help meet KPI's. This prevents good levels of satisfaction from those consumers, or gaining true insight and learnings.
45 per cent of consumers say they are dissatisfied or very dissatisfied when raising a complaint against their key services - that is shocking. If we want to use complaining to drive innovation, part of that innovation is the shift in our attitude towards what a complaint is and how we deal with it.
One Local Authority changed their complaints form to have a choice of two tick boxes, one to raise a complaint and the second feedback to improve services. When introduced, 85 per cent of consumers ticked to improve services. Perhaps this is like moving deckchairs on the Titantic, as the important feature is not how we describe complaints, but how we engage and learn from what we are being told.