Complaints research

An overview of customers’ priorities when making complaints to the NSW Government.

About this research

This research investigated customers’ priorities (both consumers and businesses) when making complaints to the NSW Government.

The insights below are from:

  • a quantitative survey completed by 1005 consumers and 255 businesses in April and May 2017
  • qualitative research through 3 90-minute focus groups, held in the Sydney CBD and Parramatta in May and June 2017, with 14 consumers and 6 business respondents.

Respondents were recruited based on a mix of age, gender, location, and experience.

Statements marked by quotation marks indicate verbatim comments from respondents.

Incidence of complaints

Customers who said they made a complaint had lower overall satisfaction with NSW Government services than customers who had not made a complaint. Quantitative survey results indicated 30 per cent of consumers and 34 per cent of businesses said they made a complaint to a NSW Government agency.

Proportion who have made a complaint

Segments Consumers Businesses
Never thought about it 51% 51%
Thought about it and decided not to 18% 14%
Made complaint in last 3 months 9% 10%
Made complaint in last 6 months 4% 7%
Made complaint in last 12 months 6% 5%
Made complaint more than 12 months ago 11% 12%

Consumers’ satisfaction with the overall experience with their last complaint experience was slightly negative.

The statements most consumers agreed with were ‘I trust my complaint has been treated confidentially’ and ‘I was treated with respect throughout the complaint process’.

The statements most consumers disagreed with were ‘I received the outcome I was hoping for’ and ‘my complaint was appropriately resolved’.

Businesses were less satisfied with the experience of making a complaint than consumers.

Similar to consumers, the statements most businesses agreed with were ‘I trust my complaint has been treated confidentially’ and ‘I was treated with respect throughout the complaint process’.

The statement most businesses disagreed with was ‘I received the outcome I was hoping for’.

Customers knew how to lodge a complaint and reported that the process was clear, with the majority lodging complaints online or in person.

Agreement with complaint experience (1 to 10)

Agreement with complaint experience Consumers Businesses
I trust my complaint has been treated confidentially 41% 32%
I was treated with respect throughout the complaint process 42% 29%
I found it easy to lodge a complaint 35% 36%
My complaint was acknowledged in a reasonable time 35% 30%
I found it easy to navigate the complaint process 34% 27%
The complaint process was fair 30% 29%
I was satisfied with the speed of the complaint process 32% 27%
I have been kept informed throughout the complaint process (including the status of my complaint) 29% 25%
I received the outcome I was hoping for 25% 26%
My complaint was appropriately resolved 24% 27%
I was satisfied with the overall experience with my last complaint 30% 22%

Reasons for not complaining

No action is taken

Feedback from consumers included:

  • “Doesn’t get you very far.”
  • “What’s the point?”
  • “I don’t think it would have made any difference.”
  • “No one does anything about it, so just not worth it.”
  • “Complaints are never followed up or taken seriously.”

Feedback from businesses included:

  • “Never sure your complaint is dealt with.”
  • “It doesn’t achieve anything.”
  • “Doesn’t get actioned.”

Effort to complain

Feedback from consumers included:

  • “Too hard to get my voice heard.”
  • “Couldn’t be bothered with the headache.”
  • “I feel the additional paperwork was not what I wanted to deal with at the time.”
  • “Too much time and energy to get involved.”
  • “Too much effort.”
  • “Too complicated.”
  • “Wait times are ridiculous.”

Feedback from businesses included:

  • “Thought the process was going to be too lengthy and painstaking.”
  • “Too hard to find the phone number for the particular department and when I got through they told me I had to email the complaint.”

Unclear process

Feedback from consumers included:

  • “Not sure how long it would take.”
  • “I couldn’t figure out how to.”

The uncertainty of being listened to

Feedback from businesses included:

  • “No one listens and couldn’t find the correct number to contact. Every time I rang they said I needed to go somewhere else.”
  • “I didn’t feel I would be listened to.”
  • “Not worth the time. They don’t care.”

Channel usage

While consumers preferred to lodge complaints via email, they felt that it was not always an effective channel. In some instances, consumers did not hear from the service until the complaint was resolved, if at all. The channel most used by consumers to lodge a complaint was the telephone.

Businesses preferred and used email to lodge complaints.

Notification of complaint status

Customers expected to be notified within a week or less of the status of their complaint.

Quantitative research results indicated 60 per cent of customers identified they would like status updates every 2 to 5 business days, and 64 per cent of consumers expect complaints to be acknowledged within 24 hours or immediately.

Preference on the regularity of status updates

Updates on complaints Consumers Businesses
Daily 11% 9%
Every 2 to 3 business days 29% 30%
Every 4 to 5 business days 31% 30%
Every couple of weeks 16% 12%
Every month 6% 7%
More than a month 8% 12%

Preference on the time taken to acknowledge complaints

Timing of acknowledgement Consumers Businesses
Immediately 20% 12%
Within 24 hours 44% 14%
Within 2 to 3 days 16% 23%
Within a week 12% 30%
Within 2 to 3 weeks 4% 10%
Within a month 1% 9%

Improving the complaint experience

In focus groups customers were asked what things could improve their satisfaction with the complaints experience. The ability to track progress throughout the process was considered important.

Increased transparency

Feedback from consumers included:

  • “Keep the customer up to date even if you have no answer for them as yet.”
  • “More transparency.”

Customer-driven approach

Feedback from consumers included:

  • “Having more understanding staff handling the process.”
  • “Deal with me in a respectful manner.”
  • “Actually pay attention to my specific concerns and not use a blanket statement response.”
  • “Ensure two-way communication.”
  • “Have staff capable of respecting the client’s viewpoint and situation.”
  • “Take responsibility and ownership.”
  • “Take initiative to prevent similar complaints.”
  • “Staff members must be customer driven and must treat work with high level of integrity.”
  • “Answer the specific complaint, not respond with a generic answer.”
  • “Maintain the spirit of doing things clearly.”

Keep customers informed

Feedback from consumers included:

  • “Provide written documentation on the outcome and info on the appeals process.”
  • “Act in a timely manner.”
  • “Be more proactive in keeping me informed of the process.”
  • “Online access to the claim to say where it is up to. Something that is visual rather than the usual turnaround.”

Proactive communication

Feedback from consumers included:

  • “Respond and notify more quickly.”
  • “Acknowledge it was received.”
  • “Provide regular updates rather than for us to assume no news is good news. Even when no progress is made, it’s good to have a call to say that it is still being investigated. Otherwise one feels that your complaint is ignored.”
  • “Be more proactive and professional.”

Feedback from businesses included:

  • “Follow it up in a timely manner.”
  • “Acknowledge the complaint. Have staff to monitor the ‘contact us’ email – no one checks it!”
  • “Answer the query promptly and keep me informed.”
  • “Be more proactive and more professional.”
  • “Respond in a short amount of time.”
  • “Be quicker.”
  • “Better response times and updates.”

Ownership and accountability

Feedback from businesses included:

  • “One case manager or person throughout the entire process until it is resolved rather than talking to and repeating the story to a different person each time – [this is the] most frustrating part.”
  • “Be transparent.”
  • “Be much more efficient, honest and accountable.”
  • “Be clear on what agency you need to talk to from the start.”

Treat case individually

Feedback from businesses included:

  • “Actually follow them up and take them seriously.”
  • “Investigate the problem. Go and physically check the sources of the problem, and find a reasonable solution for both parties.”
  • “Listen more intently. Do not seem to be rushed as it seems like you just want to get rid of us.”

One point of contact

Feedback from businesses included:

  • “Allow us to speak directly to the person involved on the time of our call, not be advised that message will be passed to that person, not the message to be issued to a third person, then for them to get back to us, or for us to wait to get a reply by letter!”
  • “Less transferring of phones… and having to repeat the issue to multiple people.”
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