Real Complaints 25.1.23
The Real Complaints project team has been collecting and analysing recordings of complaints calls in order to develop insights into the effects of language choices on callers’ satisfaction and calls efficiency. A primary goal of our data analysis has been to identify what works for various types of complaints and also understand what outcomes different communication strategies bring about. The ultimate aim of this research project has been to develop training resources for complaint handlers and managers which will help them to do their job better.
A milestone in our transition from the data analysis phase to the development of training resources was a set of workshops held on Friday, January 20th. The aim of these workshops was to share some of the “headline” conclusions from our analysis and have an open discussion with stakeholders about their priorities for training development. To that end, we met with HCSNI staff from the Trusts, as well as representatives of the Patient & Client Council and individuals who had previously expressed an interest in participating from the perspective of patient and public involvement.
These workshops addressed a range of questions and challenges in the development of training resources for complaint handlers. They featured an overview of some of the insights from our analysis, illustrated with anonymised extracts from our data, together with opportunities for discussion and feedback regarding training priorities in terms of both presentation and content.
Based on the insights from our data analysis, we proposed that our training resources will focus on the importance of affiliating with the caller. Affiliation is a technical term from conversation analysis that captures how, moment by moment, call handler responses can be finely tuned to meet the practical and emotional needs of the caller. We have analysed our data to reveal the types of subtle cues that callers present in their speech and the types of replies that work in response to those cues. Drawing on our analysis of these cues and responses, our affiliation-focused training will provide practical guidance on how to achieve the goals of active listening and professional empathy, goals which are central to the new Model Complaints Handling Procedure developed by NIPSO.
Why focus on affiliation in complaint handler training? What we saw in our data analysis was that where opportunities to affiliate with the caller were missed, callers tended to repeat themselves and get more upset or angry, and this often meant that call handlers could not move on in the call. So one benefit of developing call handlers’ skills of affiliation is that callers will be more satisfied with their experience of making a complaint because they are more likely to feel listened to, but a further important benefit is that call handlers will be able to manage calls more efficiently.
From the workshop discussions, we received many valuable insights, which we can now incorporate into the resources that we are developing. We would like to express our thanks once again to everyone who took the time to participate.