Things often get busy at the Council, making it easy to overlook when a member, volunteer or guest brings up a complaint. Mistakes and misunderstandings happen every day, even when your Council is led by passionate, hard-working people.
While we all would like to minimize our mistakes, how you handle these difficulties is often more important.
A complaint represents a risk to your organization. Complaints that are brushed off or handled poorly can result in an unnecessary claim being made, which can cause stress, endanger budgets and lead to negative publicity.
It’s important for you to be aware of the kinds of complaints you may face and understand the best practices for managing a complaint. Here’s what to know, plus 4 tips to handle complaints at the Council.
Council Complaint Scenarios
Your organization is likely to face a wide variety of complaints. You may hear complaints from your guests, as well as from your membership and volunteers.
Here are just some of the complaint scenarios you may face at the Council:
- A guest has a complaint about maintenance or upkeep, such as sidewalk debris, restroom cleanliness or burnt-out lights.
- An event attendee complains after they were hurt tripping and falling over a cord.
- A volunteer complains they were injured after slipping on ice in a parking lot.
- An event attendee complains of getting sick after eating a meal prepared by the organization at the event.
- A guest at the Council complains after having a medical emergency at an event.
- A guest of the Council has a dispute with staff or volunteers and complains to you about it.
- A person complains of inappropriate behavior by someone who is representing the organization.
- A supporter of the organization makes a complaint about their donation or the way the organization is managing the finances.
- A volunteer helping with an event complains after injuring themselves in the kitchen.
- A visitor at an event voices a concern about a safety issue they have discovered at the Council.
- A member has made a complaint about the state of the Council facilities or its equipment.
- A member complains because they disagree about the way something is being done.
- A volunteer makes a complaint about the organization or its leadership.
4 Tips to Handle Complaints at the Council
When a complaint has been raised at the Council, it’s important to act, even if the matter seems trivial or you disagree with the opinion of the person making the complaint. Take all complaints seriously and focus on understanding what is wrong so that a resolution can be found. Here are 4 tips:
1. Take time to listen—Problems are most likely to occur when you’re busy preparing for or hosting an event at the Council. When you are approached with a complaint, stop and take time to listen.
It helps to demonstrate to the guest, member or volunteer that you care and are motivated to find a resolution. Stay calm, listen attentively and ask questions so you can figure out what happened.
2. Acknowledge the situation—Listen and acknowledge the disappointment, frustration or anger of the person making the complaint. Take time to fully understand the problem from their perspective. Avoid getting into an argument about the facts and focus on what can or cannot be done.
An apology for a misunderstanding or mistake often goes a long way diffusing a tense situation. Address the complaint as soon as possible, since ignoring the problem won’t make it go away and may make the situation worse. Fast action is particularly important when there is an accident, injury or safety issue.
3. Seek to remedy the situation—Some complaints can be resolved quickly, while others may take more time to address. It is also important to realize members, volunteers and guests may not always address their complaint to the person who can solve it.
Make sure your team knows what to do and who to contact if approached with a complaint. Aim to offer a solution that addresses the needs expressed by the person making the complaint. When agreement is reached on a resolution, act quickly.
4. Follow up—Follow up on any complaints that are made to ensure that your Council follows through on the resolution.
Thank the members, volunteers and guests who point out problems to you for giving you a chance to address them. In cases where you are not able to fully resolve a complaint, document the incident.
Handle Complaints at the Council: A Summary
Handling complaints are a normal part of a day at many Council locations. Ensure you are prepared for the kinds of complaints you may face and remember what steps to take to resolve the situation.
Even when you take the right steps to handle complaints at the Council, you may one day face a claim from a member, volunteer or guest. Talk to your insurer to make sure your Council is fully protected with the right coverage for the risks you face.