Here at BBC Watch we are frequently contacted by members of the public who are frustrated by the fact that a complaint they have made to the BBC has been answered with one of the BBC Complaints department’s template replies. Readers frequently note that the points they raised in their complaint were not addressed by the generic responses often seen when the BBC receives a high volume of complaints about a particular topic.
One reader who objected to getting a template BBC reply to his complaint received a communication from BBC Audience Services which included the following:
“I understand you were unhappy that you’d received the same response to your complaint as had been sent to other complainants. I regret that you took offence to this, but our approach to this matter is perfectly in line with the BBC’s complaints framework.
Every year we receive over 1 million comments, appreciations or enquiries about BBC programmes, some 3,000 a day. Over 250,000 of these can be complaints – in some cases coming from external pressure groups and lobby websites. To help us report and handle these complaints efficiently, the BBC Trust set up a complaints process, based on the feedback received after a public consultation, that aimed to balance the need to fully investigate possible breaches of standards while also using the licence fee proportionately. The complaints framework (which you can read in full via the link provided below) states that for consistency and to minimise costs, if we receive multiple complaints about the same issue we may compile a summary of the points raised, consider those points together and then send the same reply to everyone.
I realise you may not be happy with this approach, but I hope I have been able to explain why it was done. No offence was intended.”
Of course some licence fee payers will simply give up and move on after receiving a reply which does not address the substance of their complaint and that indeed is definitely one way of ‘minimising costs’. Whether or not it is in keeping with the BBC’s status as a publicly funded body is obviously a different question altogether.
It would however be interesting to compare the expense saved through the use of template responses with that incurred by the need to further respond to those complainants who, having received an unsatisfactory generic reply, take their complaint to the next stages of the complaints process. Perhaps such a comparison would show that it might actually be more efficient – and better for customer satisfaction – to simply respond to complaints from members of the public with a relevant reply which addresses the issues raised.