Every school financial aid office receives letters and telephone calls unhappy students and parents. When this happens to you don’t take it personally. Sometimes you’ll receive a complaint about something completely unrelated to financial aid. When you deal with money and federal regulations, not everybody is going to be pleased with you every day.
Treat every complaint as genuine and investigate the circumstances. Document the circumstances surrounding the complaint and prepare a summary of the student’s file or the situation that resulted in the complaint. It is usually very easy to demonstrate that such complaints are unfounded, since most students with legitimate complaints have their problems resolved by interacting with your office. Provide a copy of this documentation to the higher administration.
It is also helpful to maintain a file of all the thank you letters and point out that the number of complaints is very small compared with the number of students you serve.
If the complaint is justified, correct it, institute procedures to prevent it from recurring and write a thank you letter to the student or parent. A carefully written letter that addresses their concerns and thanks them for bringing the problem to your attention will make them very happy. Often such complainers will then become your biggest supporters, because you took the time to show that you listened to them.
Don’t assume that just because most complaints directed at you are unfounded. When a student is a victim of the bureaucracy, they will be justifiably upset. Techniques for dealing will all complaints, good and bad, are the same: listen to the complaint politely and calmly, and address the cause of the complaint, if at all possible.
If you have an encounter with a student or parent that you feel might escalate into a complaint, take proactive steps. Write a summary of the encounter and relevant details from the student’s file, and provide it to your higher administration. When the student or parent complains to them, they’ll be able to ask pointed questions about the incident.