ACC – learning from complaints

This case study explores the benefits of implementing a new integrated complaints management system for the Accident Compensation Commission (ACC).

About the case study

Key insights from the case study are:

  • dedicated analytical resources are necessary to enable trends to be identified, understood, and to inform continuous improvement of services and policy
  • testing the system ahead of time can assist the rollout and inform training for customer service staff
  • integrated complaint management is possible even where there are high volumes of complex complaints
  • clear channels are needed to escalate complaints.

Complaints system in need of overhaul

How ACC handles the large volume of complaints it receives was the subject of a review by Auditor General Lyn Provost in 2014. She found:

  • there were relatively low levels of satisfaction from complainants about how their complaints were handled
  • a lack of consistency in the ACC’s complaints system
  • a need to better equip staff with the skills, knowledge and tools to handle complaints
  • a need to do more to understand people’s experiences of the complaints system and why some people do not complain.

The review revealed that complaints were often dealt with at a local office but were not recorded or categorised as complaints. Because of this, the number of actual complaints dealt with was under-recorded and there was limited learning from complaints within the organisation, which was also contrary to Part 5 of the Code of ACC Claimants’ Rights.

The Auditor General recommended that the ACC:

  • make it easier for people to complain
  • remove barriers that stop or discourage people from complaining
  • define, record and respond consistently to complaints throughout the organisation
  • measure, monitor and report on performance in handling complaints and provide accurate, reliable and appropriately detailed information about complaints and how they have been used to make service improvements.

ACC took heed of the Auditor General’s advice. They called in KPMG to help them work through the recommendations and have implemented feedback processes that will better serve their clients, and ACC.

Using feedback to improve the customer experience

The first phase of the Customer Feedback project focused on improving how feedback from ACC clients was managed, by making changes to processes and to the claims management system where staff record all interactions with ACC’s clients. The aim was to capture and centrally record, not just complaints, but also suggestions and compliments from everyone who interacts with ACC. This would allow ACC to analyse the feedback received, identify any feedback themes and ultimately improve customer experience.

The changes to the claims management system were piloted over a four week period with a group of frontline staff to test the training material, the new processes, and to determine the impact on workload prior to rolling out the changes.

Because of the volume of interactions with ACC clients, any changes to the claims management system to collect feedback needed to be simple, fast and accurate. The client feedback pilot showed that the changes to the claims management system added little extra time to feedback contacts, that staff found it easy to use, and it provided other important learnings prior to the full roll out.

The new client customer feedback changes were then launched across the organisation in March 2016 and 1500 frontline staff were trained on how to use the new client customer feedback system functionality and processes.

Dedicated teams to handle complaints and drive improvements

Within the organisation 2 teams have been set up or reconfigured to ensure better complaints handling, enhanced use of the data collected and to improve customer service.

1. The Customer Resolution Team is responsible for leading and coordinating customer feedback handling processes across ACC, with a particular focus on resolving escalated client feedback that cannot immediately be dealt with by frontline staff. Historically, clients often had to deal with a number of people when making a complaint. With the new team in place, escalated complaints are coordinated by a resolution specialist.

The team has updated ACC website information on how to complain, making it easier to understand and receive feedback. It has also taken over the responsibility for dissatisfaction with claims (reviews) and for complaints that are sent to the Office of the Chief Executive, to ensure a consistent resolution approach is followed.

2. The Customer Insights Team is responsible for the collection and analysis of feedback data, and keeping the Board, the Executive, staff and the public up-to-date with any trends, developments and solutions identified by working with the Business Process Management team. They are also responsible for making links to other feedback collected across the organisation, such as from consumer advocate groups and customer satisfaction surveys.

Culture change – complaints an opportunity to learn

The biggest change for the organisation has been a cultural one - encouraging a “no blame” culture, which assures staff that feedback does not necessarily reflect on the individual, but is always an opportunity to learn and improve the experience for their many customers.

It is the beginning of a new chapter for ACC, which believes few other government agencies have this integrated approach to managing feedback. This new approach will bring many benefits to ACC, its clients, levy payers and providers. It will enable concerns to be resolved early and will prevent issues escalating into disputes.

The rich feedback information collected will in turn be used to drive ongoing system and service improvements. While implementing this new approach is not easy, it is a change that ACC is committed to making.

“Public entities that welcome complaints signal to citizens that someone is listening to them and they can influence public services. For the entities complaints are a free source of advice. Complaints can provide valuable insight into poor service, systemic errors, or problems with specific processes. Complaints also give public entities an opportunity to understand the motives, feelings and expectations of the people using their services.”
Auditor General Lyn Provost

Diagam showing ACC's integrated complaints management system

Diagram showing ACC’s integrated complaints management system.