8 tips for dealing with complaints

Dealing with complaints in an ethically sound way is something the Recruitment and Consulting Services Association (RCSA) actively supports. RCSA Ethics, Compliance & Risk Manager, Martin Barnett, provides insight into why and how you can go about ethically dealing with complaints.

I think I speak for most when I say we’ve either had to deal with a complaint or have submitted one, and I dare say many of us enjoy being involved in a complaint, even if we are the one complaining. However, just as we all have to deal with the dreaded topic of tax at some stage in our lives, it is almost certain we will have to deal with a grievance at some point too.

Let’s look at this from another perspective; how many of us have found ourselves complaining about a product and/or service and endured an overwhelmingly frustrating and completely unnecessary battle to reach a satisfactory resolution? I know I have – power companies, telecommunications, financial organisations, retail outlets, restaurants and the list goes on.

For those of you reading this post and relating to what I’m saying, please pause for a moment and ask yourself a few questions: “what was I thinking at that time?”, “what was I feeling?” and, more importantly, “how did that person, organisation and overall experience make me feel?”

Are you sitting in the shoes of a client or candidate or employee yet? Ok, then I will continue. So, what is a complaint? Well, a complaint is often defined as an oral or written expression of dissatisfaction or concern a person may have about facilities, products or services provided. Regardless of what you think about the facilities, product or service you are providing, it’s all about how the ‘consumer’ felt. A complaint is, therefore, likely to be as a result of poor service given or that a customer is dissatisfied with the service or product they have received.

As recruiters and HR professionals, you're exposed to, and at risk of, complaints on a daily basis. How you deal with these encounters depends on several factors and can ultimately determine the outcome of these issues. Regardless of whether you, your employer or your own business happen to be a member of a professional body or industry association, you may well find yourself facing civil and/or legal action if things go “down the Swanee”.

One of the key factors that lead to a complaint is behaviour: how you communicate with someone, whether verbal or written, can speak volumes, as can your sincerity, empathy, respect and humility.

Members of the RCSA agree to adhere to, and abide by, the RCSA Code for Professional Conduct (Code). These codes are in place to help support and shape how we behave in our industry.

What is the RCSA Code for Professional Conduct

In short, the RCSA Code is professional conduct; observing a high standard of conduct, honesty, equity, integrity, and social and corporate responsibility. The code is governed by eight key principles:

1. Confidentiality and privacy

Properly maintain confidentiality and privacy of information received in professional practice.

2. Honest representation

Act honestly in professional dealings; meeting truth in advertising standards.

3. Work relationships

Avoid actions that would unlawfully or unfairly harm work relationships; act lawfully and fairly in transition dealings. 

4. Legal compliance

Comply with relevant legal, government and statutory requirements; avoid unlawful collusion.

5. Safety and security

Act diligently in assessing and responding to safety and security risks.

6. Certainty of engagement

Strive for certainty in arrangements made with clients and job-seekers.

7. Professional knowledge

Work to develop a satisfactory and up-to-date level of relevant professional knowledge.

8. Good order

Report RCSA Code breaches and use processes for the amicable resolution of complaints.

Quite often I read an article or hear someone talking about their brand, whether it is a company brand or a personal brand, your brand is a statement of your professionalism and character. People buy into this and therefore it is only natural that you protect your brand. Be cautious not to fall foul of running before you can walk, as one slip can potentially lead to a complaint against you, a colleague and/or a staff member. And let’s face it, do you really want that to happen? If you’re going to take risks, then be aware of the consequences associated with those risks. Above all else, remember that if you adhere to the Code, you are less likely to be faced with a complaint.

A version of this article first appeared in the RCSA Journal in September 2014.
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Martin Barnett


Ethics, Compliance and Risk Manager

Martin Barnett is a governance, risk and compliance professional and strategic management consultant. He has gained considerable international experience within highly-regulated environments, including government, law, professional services,...

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