Complaint handling that ‘works here’: the drivers and barriers of effective complaint handling in the BC local government context




Prosser, Andrew Edwin

Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title



Complaint handling is an effective tool for public sector governance. Effective complaint handling improves relationships between organizations and citizens by fostering trust and accountability, helps address gaps in public service delivery, and supports innovation in public service design. Despite these benefits, complaint handling practices at the local government level in British Columbia (BC) is often ad hoc, poorly designed, or non-existent. This thesis asks: what are the drivers and barriers for effectively handling complaints at the local government level in BC? The thesis argues that complaint handling occurs within a context of limited resources, which informs the drivers and barriers for effectively handling complaints. The thesis explores the drivers and barriers of complaint handling through a reflexive thematic analysis of interviews with senior-level local government administrators. The analysis revealed that operating in a context of limited resources led to the emergence of creative practices for handling complaints, including preventing complaints before they arise and handling complaints informally. Additionally, complaint handling is characterized by a tension between its private sector roots and public sector values like equality and fairness. The thesis concludes by making recommendations to improve complaint handling at the BC local government level.



complaint handling, local government, reflexive thematic analysis