Complaints are stressful for both you and the complainer. Even if your process is clear, many complainers still find it difficult to exercise their right, perhaps because they are worried that:
- their solicitor will stop acting
- their costs will increase
- their complaint might be ignored or not taken seriously
- the process cannot be objective
- they don’t know when or how to raise queries and concerns
A good complaints process will address all those points.
Your complaints process cannot trump the Act, which allows any person to complain “to the firm”. So even if a complaint hasn’t been submitted in the exact format that you may prefer, doesn’t refer specifically to a complaint, or hasn’t been directed to the CRM, it can still fall within the “expression of dissatisfaction” referred to in the Act.
Your commitment to a user-focused approach could include:
- An open and non-defensive attitude when you receive a complaint
- Acknowledging that it has been inconvenient or difficult for the complainer to have to make a complaint
- Openly recognising their concerns and committing to a full enquiry in the firm about the concerns
- Using non-emotive, respectful and non-judgmental language in all dealings with the complainer
- Managing expectations about what the complaints process can achieve. For instance, first parties should understand that a complaint cannot reverse a court decision; third parties should be reminded that a complaint will not change your refusal to release confidential information
- Demonstrating your understanding of the complaint (perhaps by summarising it and agreeing what you will investigate)
- Being prepared to consider any additional documents that explain concerns
- Providing clear explanations and reasons that show how any investigation - and your conclusions - were fair and unbiased
- Signposting the complainers to the next step – which could be when to expect any redress or settlement, the possibility of an internal appeal (if this is your process), and the right to approach the SLCC.