This is a summary of a small evaluation project undertaken during 2020 to follow up on the impact on practice, if any, attendance on one of Queen Margaret University’s accredited short courses and qualifications on complaint handling practice may have had. It builds on an evaluation previously undertaken in 2018 (QMU 2018). 

The research consisted of a detailed questionnaire survey sent to 72 complaint handlers in the UK who in 2019 had undertaken either the: 

  • Professional Award in Ombudsman and Complaint Handling Practice OR
  • Public Services Complaint Management Award 

The questionnaire asked them to evaluate the impact, if any, undertaking these accredited qualifications had on their:

(a) personal complaint handling practice and 
(b) organisation’s complaint handling practice. 

This report summarises the findings and draws on qualitative comments from 11 complaint handlers who provided more detailed feedback in the survey on the impact of undertaking these courses. 

Survey results

  • Related to the following two accredited short courses and qualifications that ran between February 2019 to October 2019 
  • 20 responses from complaint handlers were received. This is a relatively small response rate (27.7%) but is not unusual in longitudinal surveys. The survey was also undertaken at a time of a Global Pandemic which may also have influenced response rates. 

 Course

 Number attended

 Number responded

Professional Award in Ombudsman and Complaint Handling Practice  

 28

 8

Public Services Complaint Management Award  

 44

 12

Who attended the courses?

  • The majority of complaint handlers who responded worked for public sector organisations or ombudsman and all of the respondents work in the UK.
  • The complaint handlers are typically employed by local authorities, central government agencies, health boards or ombudsman or other ADR bodies. 

 Public Sector Organisation 

 12 (60%)

 Public Sector Ombudsman 

 5 (25%)

 Private Sector Organisation

 1

 Private Sector Ombudsman 

 2

 

  • Many of the complaint handlers attending the accredited training courses have worked for the organisations for some time with over half of respondents having more than 5 years’ experience before undertaken the course.   
  • 7 (35% respondents) were in a Complaints Manager role with 11 working as complaints handlers and 2 in closely related roles (review officer and investigator).  
  • 6 respondents reported that since undertaking the course they had been promoted or taken on additional responsibilities. 
  • 16 out of 20 indicated that attendance improved their career prospects. 
 0-1 years

 2 – 5 years

 6 – 9 years

 10 years over

 2 (10%)

 7 (35%)

 6 (30%)

 5 (25%)

  • 16 respondents identified as female and 4 identified as male.

The age distribution was as follows:

 18 – 29

 30 - 39

 40 – 49

 50 - 59

 Total

5 (25%)

 6 (30%)

 6 (30%)

 3 (15%)

 20

 

What impact did the course have on complaint handlers own practice?

In terms of what impact, if any, undertaking the accredited training course and qualification had the following key results were found: 

  • 19 out of 20 complaint handlers found the course helpful personally in their complaint handling role.
    • Of these 7 found it very helpful and 6 found it extremely helpful.   No one who responded found it not helpful. 
  • 17 out of 20 complaint handlers indicated that after attending the course they planned to make changes to their own personal approach when dealing with complaints.   
  • 15 complaint handlers discussed these in their reflective statement.
  • 18 indicated that as a result of attending the course and completing the reflective assignment they felt either a great deal more confident (n = 6) or to some extent more confident in dealing with complaints (n= 12). 

What impact did the course have on the organisation’s complaint handling practice?

  • 6 complaint handlers also indicated that they planned to make changes to how the organisation itself handles complaints
  • In relation to this it is worth noting that 7 of those who responded to the survey were in a Complaints Management role
  • All 6 complaint handlers indicated they discussed these in their reflective assignment

How successful were complaint handlers in implementing these changes?

  • In relation to the 17 complaint handlers who indicated, they planned to make personal changes:
    • 10 indicated they had been successful in implementing these changes,
    • 2 indicated they had been entirely unsuccessful and
    • 4 unsuccessful.
  • Of the complaint handlers who indicated they planned to make organisational changes, 3 out of 6 indicated that they had been successful in relation to this while 2 had been unsuccessful.   These 2 responses indicated this was due to the Covid-19 pandemic. 
  • Overall, 13 out of 20 complaint handlers indicated that they have been successful in introducing change to the way complaints are dealt with.
  • 13 complaints provided additional feedback on how successful they were in implementing these changes and their responses are provided below.   
  • Respondents highlighted how difficult it is to evaluate impact and some of the barriers to making changes.  A few highlighted the impact of Covid-19 on this.   

Conclusion

This research followed up research from 2018 and again demonstrates how undertaking the QMU’s accredited short courses and qualifications on complaint handling have a positive impact on the day-to-day complaint handling practice of complaint handlers and on the organisations they are employed by. 

While based on a small number of respondents, the impacts identified include that:

  • complaint handlers are more confident in dealing with complaints, and
  • highlighted a number of ways where the course and qualification had helped them to improve their responses to complaints.  This included:
    • greater communication at the start of the process and that by engaging with customers, more at the beginning of the process this has enabled them to gain a better understanding of what customers want so that they can more quickly focus on delivering outcomes that meet their needs while
    • others highlighted that the course had given them additional tools to help them resolve complaints. 

Those in a position to influence the wider organisation indicated that they had been able to introduce customer services changes across their teams and use complaints to drive wider service improvement.   Communication with the ombudsman has also improved reducing the number of enquiries they receive from them. 

 

REFERENCES 

QUEEN MARGARET UNIVERSITY 2018 Research into the Impact of CDRC Complaints Handling Courses Report on Phase 1 Research  

https://www.qmu.ac.uk/media/6545/phase1-impact-research-report-final-december18.pdf