This section discusses how to make an effective complaint.
It first discusses the question of who to make a complaint to. That is, whether you should first complain to the organisation or body you are complaining about directly or go to a designated independent complaints body without having done so.
There is also a page with links to other documents about effective complaints and letter-writing .
When you decide you are going to make a complaint you have several decisions to make at the start of the process:
You can and should consider first making a complaint to the organisation or body that the complaint is about. If you are not comfortable doing this, you can complain to one of the established complaints bodies that exist.
However, some of the complaint bodies require that you to try to resolve the complaint directly with the organisation you are complaining about, before they are prepared to become involved. This will sometimes depend upon the seriousness and nature of your complaint (for example, if your complaint is about sexual harassment or bullying, you should not be expected to try to and resolve your complaint with the person who is or has sexually harassed or bullied you).
Most large organisations, both public and private, have complaints policies and sometimes designated complaints sections or complaints officers.
There are advantages in complaining to the organisation or body you are complaining about first:
Many organisations and bodies like the NSW Health Care Complaints Commission (HCCC), will only accept written complaints.
Even if an organisation does accept verbal complaints, it is still generally preferable to put your complaints, concerns or questions in writing for the following reasons:
However, if you feel more comfortable talking to someone rather than writing it down, then you may still receive the answers or an explanation that satisfies you, an apology that you want or systemic change in the organisation to make sure the same mistake is not repeated simply from a telephone call or face to face meeting. In other words, a verbal complaint is far more likely to lead to a satisfactory outcome than the third option, which is doing nothing at all.
If you have difficulty in writing a written complaint, because of your English language skills, your literacy levels or just the stress of the situation, then an advocacy organisation might be able to help you.
The NSW Ombudsman has a fact sheet on tips for effective complaints, click here to read it.
The HCCC has an information sheet about effective health care complaints, click here to read it.
The Complaint Line has also guides to making a complaint, click here to read it.
The Complaint Line also has tips, click here for more information.
Updated January 30, 2015