Complaint handling process for agencies

There are five key stages to handling complaints, from receiving the initial complaint to providing an outcome. For more information on handling complaints, see Effective complaint handling guidelines.

Key stages of complaint handling process

Complaint is received

Complaints may be received in various ways, such as by phone, online complaint form, email, social media, or in person.

Record the complaint and relevant information

  • the complainant, ie contact details and information such as any additional support required
  • the complaint, such as the issues raised, the outcome the complainant is seeking, and other relevant information.

Acknowledge the complaint

  • include a contact point for the complainant, timeframe in which action will be taken, and the likely next steps
  • agencies should consider the most appropriate medium for acknowledging the complaint ie whether an acknowledgement given by phone or email.

Assess the complaint

As part of the initial assessment consider the following factors:

  • are the issue/s raised within your control?
  • are the outcomes sought by the complainant viable?
  • if  more than one issue is raised, consider whether these will need to be separately addressed
  • the seriousness of the complaint and whether it should be resolved urgently
  • if the complaint involves a person’s health and safety
  • how is the complainant being affected by the issue/s raised?
  • are there are any risks involved if resolution is delayed?
  • do other organisations need to be involved?
  • does the complainant need to be given further information?
  • is further information needed from the complainant in order to properly assess and resolve the complaint?

Complaint does not warrant an investigation

Provide an outcome and options of redress - if relevant or applicable

  • inform the complainant about the investigation and advise them of the outcome
  • include reasons for the decision, remedies available, and options for review.

Close the complaint

Close the complaint and keep comprehensive records about how the complaint was managed, the outcome, any recommendations, and any outstanding actions that need to be followed up.

Complaint warrants an investigation

Investigate the complaint

You may not need to follow all these steps in consecutive order, but in general is it important to:

  • assess the complaint and determine what action is required
  • select the appropriate investigative approach by looking at any statutory requirements, the nature of the issue, and the likely outcome of the investigation
  • develop an investigation plan
  • ensure proper powers and authority
  • obtain evidence
  • report the findings.

For more information, see the Investigation of complaints fact sheet.

Provide an update to the complainant

  • let the complainant know what is happening with their complaint, when they can expect to hear from you next and who to contact if they want to provide further information
  • check your agency’s policy on when to provide an update, keeping in mind that an update may need to be provided earlier than the policy specifies if there are any significant changes.

Provide the final outcome

  • inform the complainant about the investigation and advise them of the outcome
  • include reasons for the decision, remedies available and options for review.

Options for redress and close the complaint

  • provide available options for redress, and if possible
  • close the complaint and keep comprehensive records about how the complaint was managed, the outcome, any recommendations, and any outstanding actions that need to be followed up. It is also a good idea to make a record of any systemic issues identified.

Complaint handling process flowchart

PDF available for download

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