We received 148 formal complaints this year (compared to 134 last year) about a number our services. We treat every complaint very seriously and, to make sure we get the right outcome, we investigate each one thoroughly. On average, it took us just under 9½ days to investigate and resolve each formal complaint.
A number of those complaints were about our estate services, which we know haven’t been great in some areas. We are listening and working hard to improve them with, for example, more flexible gardening contracts which allow for more visits in peak growing times.
Responding to the Housing Ombudsman's New Code for Complaints
We are working to deliver all the guarantees the Housing Ombudsman wants us to give our residents when they complain. The ombudsman's new code will change how we work for the better, but we were already working on a new policy to better explain and improve the process. The new policy aims to make the whole experience of making a complaint easier and much better for our residents, and our staff know what their responsibilities in making sure that happens.
We firmly believe that providing a great customer experience can really only come if it is part of everyone’s role, but we understand this can lead to mistakes at times. We are considering having a ‘complaints champion’ (a senior manager), who will make sure the process is properly followed and every resident receives the service they are entitled to. Staff will know they have the power to resolve complaints, either on their own, or with others, with more training and support if necessary.
Residents are not currently involved with resolving complaints, as we aim to resolve them early, but we will look at this if it feels the right thing to do. We never try to stop residents from referring their complaint to the Housing Ombudsman once our process has been completed.
We resolve most of our complaints at stage 1. We will make sure we continue to do so, improve where we can and be more open about showing it. Unfortunately, we can't really show how residents are kept informed about their complaint with our current reporting systems. We have built extra measures into our new policy to make sure residents know they are being listened to and kept informed at every stage.
We promise to acknowledge and respond to complaints in 5 days, but we can't show we do. This is an important part of our new policy and we will be able to show how we do this in future.
As yet, we do not properly monitor the number of complaints resolved at each stage, or the number resolved to satisfaction, so we will look to do this this in future.
We are meant to respond to requests for evidence from the Housing Ombudsman within 15 days and we believe we generally do, although we can't really show it. With the measures our new policy, we will be able to in future.
We feel our service is fair, but we aren't best at explaining that, so we have improved it. Residents can complain via someone else, and in a number of ways, and we will make sure they know they have the right to complain, and how to do it much more often. We have never refused to escalate a complaint, and we always explain our decisions, but we don’t have any real way of showing it. Something else we will improve.
If something is wrong with the process, we try to put it right, but we don't have a formal system for doing so. We will train our staff to provide better evidence, notice any patterns and make sure we report everything properly.
What we must do is learn and improve from our mistakes. We think we do, but we can't really show it, so we will make sure we train staff better and report better. We also don’t share these failings with residents so, again, we will look how we can better record and share them so we are completely open and honest about our process.
Our new complaints policy has launched, now begins our aim to improve the service for everyone who ever feels they need to complain.