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Advice provision, Complaints, Consumer-citizens, Mediation and ADR, Research, System design, What's new

Transforming Complaint Resolution – a new website resource

The Transforming Complaint Resolution website has been created by Chris Gill, Carolyn Hirst and Jane Williams. Collectively we are academics, researchers and practitioners who have an interest in complaint handling, conflict resolution, and administrative justice.

Together we believe that much of the transformational potential of complaints remains unrealised and unrecognised. And our common intent is to carry out research that provides an evidence base for complaint resolution practice and enables collaborative work with practitioners and policymakers to identify and promote best practice.

So our reason for creating this website is to bring together and share the findings of research we have conducted (sometimes with other colleagues and over a number of years) which has a relevance to complaint resolution. This has included looking at complaints in public services, in relation to consumer problems and in relation to external complaint handling by ombuds and others.

Our intention is for this website to be an accessible resource – with both academic interest and practical application. And our hope is that its resources will have relevance to those dealing with and those making complaints in and about a wide range of public, private and third-sector organisations and services, as well as to ombuds institutions, professional and advisory bodies, regulators and academics.

The resources to date that we feature on the website are summaries and links to research on the following nine subjects:

Being Complained About

Summarises the key findings of research into the effects of complaints on employees and provides guidance for organisations to help them mitigate the potential for complaints to negatively affect individual employees and organisational performance. This research was conducted by Chris Gill, Carolyn Hirst, Jane Williams, and Maria Sapouna, and resulted in practice-based Being Complained About – Good Practice Principles and Guidelines. The guidance was developed in consultation with practitioners by Carolyn Hirst and Chris Gill, with funding from the University of Glasgow’s ESRC Impact Acceleration Account.

User Experiences

Research investigating the experiences of consumers who used alternative dispute resolution to resolve their disputes. It found confusion, gaps and overlaps and made recommendations for improvement. The research was funded by Citizens Advice and conducted by Chris Gill, Naomi Creutzfeldt, Jane Williams and Nial Vivian.


Provides a summary and link to research conducted by Jane Williams, Chris Gill and Gavin McBurnie on financial industry complaint handling, which draws on a small qualitative case study undertaken with a major UK financial institution. It is a novel attempt to integrate the literatures on ethical and fair decision making and the literatures on ethical and fair decision making and apply them to the practice of complaint handling. 

Access to Justice

Describes research conducted by Naomi Creutzfeldt, Chris Gill, Marine Cornelis and Rachel MacPherson which investigated how vulnerable energy consumers access justice in Europe. It argues that if access to justice is a principal driver and sufficient attention is paid to principles of good dispute system design, then ADR has significant potential to improve access to justice. This research was funded by the Economic and Social Research Council and resulted in a book: Access to Justice for Vulnerable and Energy-Poor Consumers.

Dispute System Design

Summarises research carried out by Chris Gill, Jane Williams, Carol Brennan and Carolyn Hirst. This research was funded by the Legal Ombudsman and investigated different models of alternative dispute resolution for designing effective complaint systems. Case study design and fieldwork was conducted with ten organisations: four in the UK, one in Ireland, two in New Zealand, one in Australia, one in Canada and one in the USA.

Ombuds Reform

Sets out research led by Richard Kirkham and Chris Gill. It brings together ombudsman scholars to propose reforms to the ombuds sector in England and sets out five principles for ombuds reform to frame the debate. The findings of this project are published in an edited collection of essays under the title A Manifesto for Ombudsman Reformwhich provides targeted proposals for legislative reform.

Parliamentary Casework

Describes research conducted by Chris Gill as part of a Scottish Parliament Academic Fellowship. This research investigated the casework conducted by Members of the Scottish Parliament and their caseworkers. It sets out areas for development, including the provision of more support and training for the caseworker role and opportunities for casework to be used systematically to inform public policy.

Complaint Data

Relates to the operation of model Complaint Handling Procedures in Scotland. It explores the usefulness to administrative justice researchers of the complaint data now being published by local authorities, identifies opportunities for future administrative justice research and draws lessons for wider administrative justice policy based on early experiences of this new approach. This research was conducted by Chris Gill, Tom Mullen and Nial Vivian and funded by the Nuffield Foundation through the UK Administrative Justice Institute.

Outcome of Complaints

Research considered outcome and impact of complaint investigations on individual complainants in care services and on the services complained about. The research identified a number of important considerations for the development of better practice in the response to complaints throughout the care services system. This research was conducted by Richard Simmons, Carol Brennan, Chris Gill and Carolyn Hirst and was funded by the Care Inspectorate.

The Transforming Complaint Resolution website also has a section on Current Research. Here you will find information about our current project which now has the title Transforming Complaint Systems: Access to Justice, Redress, and Systemic Change in Adult Social Care and Social Housing. The aim of this proposed research is to provide a comprehensive evidence base for improving complaint systems’ capacity for individual redress, organisational learning and public accountability in the adult social care and social housing sectors in Scotland and England, and to work with key stakeholders to convert this into enhanced practice and systemic improvement. This research will have a multi-disciplinary approach, with the core research team comprising Chris Gill, Carolyn Hirst, Jane Williams, Richard Simmons, and Paolo Casteltrione. A funding application to support this research has now been submitted.

Finally, the website has a blog which currently has two posts: the first of which is welcome to the website and the second is a contribution from Jane Williams which discusses research she completed with Chris Gill, Naomi Creutzfeldt and Nial Vivian highlighting the value consumers attach to being able to participate effectively in complaint resolution.  

We will be adding further resources to our website over the coming months and you can subscribe to the website blog if you want to be kept up to date about posts and new additions. And we hope that you do!


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