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Morrison Low Reviews Complaints System for Government Agency

February 2016

A Government Agency’s need for a more robust system for managing complaints about its staff drove a recent review of its complaints system. This review was conducted for the Agency by Morrison Low’s Wellington Office. 


The review included an assessment of current state against best practice with guidance from the Ombudsman. The result was 18 recommendations to improve the Agency’s ability to effectively respond to complaints about its staff.


A collaborative approach 

We worked very closely with staff from the Complaints Unit and with the senior management team to analyse, design and recommend changes to the Agency’s systems, policies and operations.


Applying a clear and tested approach

Our advice used a tested approach to complaints which underpins responses that are genuine and proportional to the facts.

  1. Stuffed up? Then Own it, Fix it and Learn from it – Don’t fudge. If you are clearly at fault or in an indefensible position. Own the complaint, act quickly to fix the situation and show that you will learn from the experience.
  2. Complaint is unfair? Defend yourself and your staff – But only if you have a “slam dunk” response and can back that up.
  3. Complaint is misinformed or only half the story? Explain the situation or add the missing facts – If the complaint is misguided or misconceives important facts. Provide an explanation or put out additional information.
  4. Never mix the response- Half an apology mixed with some defensive information and additional facts never works. Only one approach should be used at any one time, and it’s critical that all communication is consistent with the approach.


An innovative solution

Given the critical requirement for the Agency to maintain a reputation for integrity above reproach, one specific recommendation was to establish a new role with accountability for integrity and ethics in the delivery of customer services and a focus on complaints. This innovation is currently operating in only one other large government department in New Zealand (IRD).


The Agency accepted all recommendations and valued the collaborative and innovative approach we took.  We are now finalising how we will support the Agency to successfully implement the recommendations and embed the systems and practice changes into the Agency’s operating model.


A track record in service delivery models

In carrying out this review we drew on our considerable experience in advising customer service focused organisations on service delivery models including complaints systems.


For more information on service delivery models and our experience in central government contact:

Email Stuart Cross or phone +64 21 985 367

  • Business process design/reengineering
  • Organisational review
  • Quantitative and qualitative analysis