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Open to Criticism
I could dodge it no longer. At the end of the corridor, the meeting room door was ajar and I knew that the occupant of the room was a relative of a Service User, who had insisted they speak to me. It was hard to enter the room with an open mind.
You see, you never know what to expect when faced with this situation and more often than not what you get is a barrage of complaints. Its hard work to remain both calm and professional when faced with a ranting individual who feels very much in the right.
Shut up and listen
I have found that the best approach is to smile, greet the person confidently and then let them talk. Or shout, if that’s what they need to do. Sometimes this has been a traumatic journey for them, summoning the courage to complain about the service you are providing. Not everyone finds it easy to criticise, especially when sensitive matters are at stake.
I have found that after a period of ranting and shouting at a person who remains calm and accepting, the shouter will become quiet and reasonable. So remain dignified, use a quiet voice in response, and listen to what they have to say. The worst thing you can do is get loud in reply, as this will generally escalate into a shouting match and this helps no one.
Accept their view
Even if you don’t agree with what the person is saying, acknowledge that you understand and accept their point. This will help them realise they are dealing with a reasonable person and in turn this should defuse the situation. Without sounding patronising, repeat back the points they have made as you respond;
“You are upset about Joe’s new shirt getting ruined in the laundry; this is perfectly reasonable”
Once you have established the cause of their complaint or grievance, you might suggest ways to address it. Often, asking them what they would wish to happen can be a good way to keep them onside;
“Would you prefer us to replace the shirt or perhaps refund the cost?”
Consider this an opportunity
Of course nobody likes complaints, but try to use each one as an opportunity to learn and improve. Importantly, log and record the complaint and the outcome to demonstrate your good practice and to help with staff development. Use this not just with complaints from outside agencies and relatives, but also with Service User comments to which you should respond in the same way, fairly, speedily and in line with your policy.
Oh, and for the record, my ‘angry’ relative just wanted to give me a thank you card. Who knew?
Check out the QCS policy on complaints handling and read up on CQC Outcome 17.