We are here to keep our customers safe and to provide the best service we can, but we’re also responsible for protecting our staff from abuse, hostility and violence.
We take a zero-tolerance approach to verbal or physical assault of any nature towards our staff.
The Housing Ombudsman Service requires housing associations and councils to have policies which help to manage customers who complain in an unacceptable way. Offensive behaviour can cause distress and worry. It can frighten staff and have a serious impact on their mental wellbeing, which can then impact on your service. Therefore, we do not expect our staff to feel they must deal with customers who show threatening, abusive, or violent behaviour.
Making a Complaint
We will always acknowledge or investigate something a customer feels is wrong. However, that doesn’t mean our staff, contractors or others working on our behalf, will tolerate unacceptable behaviour from a customer, no matter how much the customer thinks it is justified.
Our complaints policy explains how to complain, what the process is and what is, or isn’t, a complaint and our anti-social behaviour policy explains what we do to help a customer in need. However, these policies don’t explain what we do when it is a customer behaving unacceptably towards our staff.
What we might do
If we, or our contractors, are faced with unacceptable behaviour from a customer, (whether that’s aggression, violence or threats of violence, or any form of discrimination or abuse), we might end the call, visit or appointment. If we know a customer might behave in a certain way, we might make sure our staff do not visit them alone. These actions also work to protect the customer, particularly if that behaviour is made worse because of physical or mental conditions.
Every customer has a right to be heard, understood and respected, and we will make sure that happens in a fair and consistent way. We understand that distressing or frustrating circumstances can cause someone to act out of character, but that behaviour can become unacceptable if it continues or becomes so demanding that it affects our ability to provide our services to other customers.
What is unacceptable behaviour against Accent staff, and those working on our behalf?
These are the kind of behaviours we consider to be unreasonable or unacceptable:
- Unreasonable demands (such as asking for large amounts of information, for us to respond in a short time or for refusing to speak to a certain person or insisting on speaking with another person)
- Unreasonable persistence (refusing to accept our information, continuing to raise the same subject without any new evidence, adding to or changing the subject matter of the complaint)
- Verbal abuse, aggression, violence (this is not just limited to actual physical or verbal abuse but can include derogatory remarks, rudeness, inflammatory allegations, and threats of violence)
- Excessive letters, calls, emails or contact via social media (this could include how often contact is made and the volume of correspondence received as well as the frequency and length of telephone calls).
This behaviour isn't just from a customer, it also includes the family, friends or visitors of that customer when dealing with us or living in or visiting our homes. As our customer, you are responsible for their behaviour.
When customers act in this way, we will try to reach an arrangement which stops us taking more formal action. This is to allow the person time to change their behaviour. We may suggest mediation to try and improve the situation. If this fails, we may issue a warning before taking any formal steps. We will explain why the behaviour is unreasonable and what will happen next if it continues.
What action can Accent take?
- Provide a single point of contact.
- Limit contact to a single form, letter, or email, for example.
- Limit contact to certain times or a limited number of times.
- Not investigate further unless new evidence or information is provided.
- Limit how many issues we can investigate, if there are a number.
In certain cases, such as if there is physical violence, verbal abuse or harassment towards an employee, we will take further action, which may involve the police or other legal action. Unacceptable behaviour can also put the tenancy at risk, as it is a breach of the tenancy agreement, customers have signed.
Our priority will always be to protect our customers and staff. If the focus of a customer’s complaint is not about service but the staff member, then these will also be investigated using our appropriate policies.
We expect our staff to offer you service with respect at all times. Please respect those that deliver our services to you.