MacKay Hannah

Managing complaints and customers in Scotland's public sector: how to get it right (online)

Tue 24th May 2022

OVERVIEW View Conference Agenda

Every public sector body wants and needs satisfied service users. People happy with the services they receive attach value to both the services and the organisation delivering them. However a negative experience can mean service users have toxically different views from the producer’s perception. Left unaddressed, complaints become grievances which cost time, money and potentially severe reputational damage. So what should organisations do to develop positive relationships with their service users? Is your service protecting itself effectively by valuing service users, fostering person-centred engagement and then intervening fast and well when complaints arise?

This conference addresses the challenge for Scottish public sector bodies – and those in the Third and private sectors too - of meeting the expectations of the people they serve. It is for all those seeking to pre-empt, engage with, resolve and move beyond complaints. It will support your organisation in understanding service user expectations, behaviour and engagement. Speakers will discuss how to build trust with service users, address complaints effectively and what to be aware of when complaints go badly wrong.

In the data, digital and increasingly ‘open’ age, complaints and grievances have much more power. Left badly managed, a person with a complaint or grievance will cost an organisation far more time, money and reputation damage than if they had been effectively engaged. A core challenge for all organisations therefore is to make retaining trust a priority. So how do you prevent complaints and dissatisfaction before they arise? What is effective in addressing complaints and using that experience to reshape services, products and relationships in future? How do you ensure the swift action, reliable communication and accommodating staff are all in place to try to deliver a preventative approach?

The best organisations prevent complaints from arising, address them quickly when they do and make swift redress when things go badly wrong. So how do you treat complaints when they emerge? Is your complaint experience fed back into services, structures and staff behaviour to capture the value of the bad and turn it into pre-emptive good in the future?

The conference is structured in three parts:

  • Understanding what public services users and clients want
  • What to do when services go wrong
  • What happens when it’s too late for prevention

Benefits of attending


  • Understand what public services users and clients want 
  • Discuss what good service user relations look like
  • Examine re-establishing relationships: moving from transactional exchange to person-centred engagement 
  • Find out what consumers and service users think and want
  • Learn what to do when services go wrong
  • Assess consumer complaints and effective dispute design
  • Consider early intervention and proactive engagement with service users and clients
  • Explore what good complaint handling looks like
  • Ask what happens when it’s too late for prevention
  • See how to use effective mediation for resolution
  • Reflect on reputation, relationship breakdown and the media
  • Look at the legal dimension: care, conflict and consequences

KEYNOTE SPEAKER View All Speakers

Rosemary Agnew

Scottish Public Services Ombudsman

Graham Boyack

Director, Scottish Mediation

Johanna Boyd

Barrister (England & Wales) and Associate, Brodies LLP

Sarah Chisnall

Head of Scottish Policy and Public Affairs, Ombudsman Services

Mark Diffley

Founder and Owner, Diffley Partnership

Nicola Harvey

Chief Officer – Director Customer & Digital Services, City of Edinburgh Council

Andy Maciver

Director, Message Matters

Niki Maclean

Director, Scottish Public Services Ombudsman

Judith Turner

Deputy Chief Ombudsman, Rail Ombudsman and Dispute Resolution Ombudsman (conference chair)

Jane Williams

Senior Lecturer in Dispute Resolution, Queen Margaret University

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Great event, giving good cross-sector views.

Brenda Murray, Perth & Kinross Council,
Delegate - Planning Conference 2019

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