1.1 National Conciliation Service (NCS) understands that our core business is dealing with Business to Consumer (B2C) disputes. Over the course of our work we deal with a wide variety of B2C disputes and in the vast majority of cases, these interactions are both positive and productive for all parties.
1.2 Occasionally, the behaviour or actions of some individuals that we have dealings with make it impossible for us to continue our role as an effective Alternative Dispute Provider. In these small number of cases, NCS must consider taking steps to protect our staff and ensure that our ability to provide an effective Alternative Dispute Service is not undermined. This policy explains how we will approach these situations.
2. Policy aims and objectives
2.1 NCS believes that we should interact with our customers via the communication channel of their choice and that all feedback on our products and services, positive and negative, has a right to be heard.
2.2 In all of our communications with customers we will:
A. Deal fairly, honestly, consistently and appropriately with all customers
B. Set expectations for what NCS can and cannot do to meet their concerns
C. Provide services that are accessible to all
D. Ensure that no one using our services is disadvantaged as a result of the unacceptable behaviour of others.
3. Defining unacceptable behaviours
3.1 NCS understands that customers who correspond with us are normally dealing with a dispute a customer has with a business that has come to a deadlock or unsatisfactory conclusion. We acknowledge that this can be hugely stressful and that they sometimes may act out of character. However, NCS takes the importance of our work very seriously, and whilst we will provide the best customer service we can to our customers, we do not expect our staff to tolerate unacceptable behaviours.
3.2 Dealing with behaviours such as those defined below, detract from the service that NCS offers and places a significant burden on the organisation. Dealing with unacceptable behaviours diverts necessary resources from delivering our core business and services.
These include the following:
3.2.1 Offensive, threatening or abusive behaviour
Violence is not restricted to acts of aggression that may result in physical harm. It also includes behaviour or language (whether written or verbal) that is offensive, threatening or abusive.
Language that is designed to insult or degrade, is racist, sexist, homophobic, or language that causes offence, will be viewed as unacceptable.
3.2.2 Unacceptable demands
NCS provides an impartial independent Alternative Dispute Resolution process that is certified by the Chartered Trading Standard Institute (CTSI) to deal effectively with B2C disputes in the UK and Europe. Sometimes people can make unacceptable demands on our resources by the nature and scale of the service that they expect.
Examples of such behaviour include:
A. Repeatedly demanding responses within an unrealistic timescale
B. Insisting on speaking to a particular member of staff, even when it is not possible
C. Refusal to follow the proper processes in relation to the process of ADR (i.e continuing to contact NCS rather than following the next steps that may be open to them once the process of ADR has concluded)
D. Causing disruption by excessive contact in relation to information about their dispute without clear acceptance of updates previously given
3.2.3 Unacceptable persistence
Sometimes an individual will contact NCS repeatedly about the same issue or closely related issues. Whilst individually these contacts may be quite acceptable, the persistence of the approach takes up a disproportionate amount of time and resources in exchanges that are unproductive to either party. Sometimes this will take the form of serial complaining – lodging complaints about the handling of their complaints, often across different parts of the organisation or businesses associated or linked to NCS
When persistence has reached the point of disrupting our ability to undertake our work (i.e inundated with unnecessary information) or if it is amounting to harassment and unacceptable treatment of our staff, this will constitute unacceptable behaviour.
4. How we will manage unacceptable behaviours in practice
There are primarily two ways in which to correspond with NCS. By telephone or in writing (by email or post). Each of the paragraphs below explains how NCS expect our staff to manage these communications.
4.1.1 If a customer contacting or being contacted by NCS over the telephone displays unacceptable behaviours as narrated above, the member of staff should do the following:
A. Warn the person immediately that their behaviour unacceptable and if their tone or language persist, that the contact will be terminated
B. If this does not resolve the matter and the person continues to display these unacceptable behaviours then contact will be terminated
C. Inform their manager or a team leader with the full details of what happened.
D. The manager will then bring this to the attention of the Complaints Manager who will decide on the appropriate action that will be taken by the NCS which may including ‘call barring’
4.2 In writing
4.2.1 If a customer contacting NCS in writing is offensive, threatening or abusive, these should be reported to your manager immediately. The manager or heads of function will then consider if and how future communication is appropriate and advise the customer in writing of the outcome of this decision.
4.2.2 If a customer contact NCS in writing that is placing unreasonable demands on NCS, or when NCS has already taken a decision on the following:
- If we can handle the case
- The outcome of the case
- A complaint or appeal has concluded
- The matter has been or is being dealt with by the courts or an alternative provider of ADR
A. These should be reported to your manager who will inform them in writing of our expected service levels and/or the next steps that may be open to them to pursue the matter or seek further advice
B. Once NCS has made a final decision or opinion over a case and has advised the correspondent of that decision/opinion and their options that may be open to pursue the matter elsewhere, we will not enter into further correspondence about the decision in the absence of relevant new evidence that has not previously been considered.
C. After we have advised the individual or business of this and any relevant rights of appeal if any. We will not therefore acknowledge or reply to any further correspondence which simply repeats issues or arguments that have been dealt with in previous correspondence.
5. Terminating or limiting contact
5.1 NCS will carefully manage the process of terminating contact with an individual and the decision to terminate contact will not be taken lightly. We will carefully consider the form of such a termination in order to balance the rights of the individual against the NCS’s duty to perform in accordance with UK & EU consumer and ADR legislation, and our duties and responsibilities to protect our staff and avoid disruption in the workplace
5.2 We will consider a range of options in relation to how we would terminate or limit contact. The decision to restrict or terminate contact will be taken by a NCS Service Manager or Director.
6. How we will monitor and track these unacceptable behaviours
6.1 NCS will use its complaints process to manage the collation of information in relation to unacceptable behaviours and actions.
6.2 A separate flow-chart and handling instructions have been developed to support NCS staff when dealing with these situations
7. Recording a decision to restrict contact
7.1 NCS will record incidents involving unacceptable actions and behaviours as they occur, but will retain those records only to assist in the decision-making process for further action, if required. If a resolution is found then this information will be held for a period no longer than 90 days, but if no resolution is found then this will be retained by NCS in line with our records management policy and will be held for as long as considered necessary
7.2 When NCS decide to terminate or restrict contact with an individual, we will record that decision and the reasons for it. This will be held centrally by NCS and shared with areas within NCS that have contact with our customers.
7.3 Regular review of unacceptable behaviour policy
NCS’ unacceptable behaviour policy will be reviewed at least annually.