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Complaints‐handling procedures of human services charities: Prevalence, antecedents, and outcomes of strategic approaches

Roger Bennett (London Metropolitan University, London, UK)
Sharmila Savani (London Metropolitan University, London, UK)

Managing Service Quality: An International Journal

ISSN: 0960-4529

Article publication date: 6 September 2011




The purposes of the study are: to determine the prevalence of complaints systems within human services charities (HSCs); to identify the determinants of the adoption of complaints procedures; and to assess the outcome of strategic (rather than ad hoc) approaches to complaints management.


A review of the literature is used to propose a model of the antecedents and outcomes of the adoption of a formal complaints‐handling system. A questionnaire survey is then conducted among a sample of 251 HSCs in the UK with annual incomes in excess of £1 million. The data are utilised to assess the prevalence of formal complaints procedures, potential antecedents to the adoption of such a system, and whether the application of strategic approaches to complaint management leads to greater managerial satisfaction with the system.


The prevalence of formal complaints‐handling procedures in UK charities is increasing. Such systems are less common in smaller HSCs with little statutory funding and low levels of listening orientation. In contrast, strategic approaches to formal complaints systems tend to be high in charities characterised by: learning, listening and client orientation; sectors in which beneficiaries can easily switch to alternative service providers; and clients who depend heavily on the charity's assistance.

Research limitations/implications

Fewer than half of the charities in the research population returned the questionnaire. The data were self‐reported. Only one category of charities (HSCs) was considered. The study was undertaken in a single country.

Practical implications

Organizational antecedents of the adoption of strategic approaches to complaint management should be encouraged. Steps should be implemented to remove frequent causes of complaints against HSCs.


This is the first study to model and test potential antecedents of strategic approaches to the implementation of formal complaints‐handling procedures within the charity sector and to relate strategic approaches to satisfaction with complaints systems.



Bennett, R. and Savani, S. (2011), "Complaints‐handling procedures of human services charities: Prevalence, antecedents, and outcomes of strategic approaches", Managing Service Quality: An International Journal, Vol. 21 No. 5, pp. 484-510.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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