This policy sets out the Society of Master Saddler’s approach for handling customer feedback including compliments and complaints about their Members, their staff and their policies.
We want to ensure that when Members and/or consumers tell us that they are satisfied or dissatisfied with goods or a service provided by our Members, we and our Members respond in a timely and appropriate way.
We will ensure that the customer feedback process is accessible, easy to read and that the information we publish is accurate and up to date. We will ensure that the information is clear and that we, The Society of Master Saddlers and our Members respond within a reasonable timescale wherever possible. All feedback will be dealt with fairly, in an open and impartial way.
Our aim is to ensure that all customer feedback is handled in a consistent, fair and appropriate manner and that a clear process is followed.
Before progressing please check that the person or company about whom you wish to submit Feedback or a complaint is a member of the Society. Go to FIND A MEMBER
How to share feedback about an SMS member or staff.
Feedback to us is ‘an expression of satisfaction or dissatisfaction about goods or services provided by one of our Members, a Member of SMS staff or about a specific policy.’
The scope of our Feedback and Complaints Policy covers positive and negative feedback received from both Members and Consumers about anyone who is a fully paid up Member of the Society of Master Saddlers as listed on the SMS website.
You can provide a feedback by completing the online feedback form. Before progressing please check that the person or company is a member of the Society. Go to FIND A MEMBER
Upon receipt of your feedback we will acknowledge acceptance and your feedback may be shared directly with the Member/s concerned to highlight good practice or to help improve performance. A summary of all feedback received will be shared with the Feedback & Complaints Committee and the SMS Executive Committee. If you would like the SMS to investigate your experience then you MUST follow the complaints process below.
Members’ efforts and contributions arising from positive feedback will be recognised annually at our Annual General Meeting as part of the compliments and complaints officer/committee report. Customer feedback and case studies may be shared with Members for training purposes.
Please complete the form below to share your feedback - thank you.
This section sets out the full SMS Complaints handling process, from Stage 1 to Stage 4.
A complaint to us is ‘an expression of dissatisfaction about goods or services provided by one of our Members, about a Member of the SMS staff or about a specific SMS policy.’
The scope of this policy covers complaints received from both Members and Consumers except where:
- The complaint has already been concluded by the SMS complaints process
- Criminal proceedings have been brought against a Member by the complainant
- Your complaint is about alleged serious misconduct about an SMS employee, this will be dealt with through our internal HR Procedure, as it would not be appropriate to deal with the issue through the Complaints Policy. We will not provide details or the outcome of those internal procedures, but we will let you know once internal processes are complete.
- There has been a potential data breach in accordance with the Data Protection Act 2018. There is a separate process for this outside of the Complaints Policy, which involves a full investigation of the matter and referral to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) should the customer remain dissatisfied following internal review.
- Any alteration has been made to the product in question by a third party.
- The complainant has entered into discussion regarding the matter on social media such as Facebook and Twitter.
All complaints will be dealt with in four stages:
- Expression of Dissatisfaction/Grievance
- Complaint Hearing
- Right of Appeal
Expression of Dissatisfaction/Grievance
Dissatisfaction between a client/consumer and an SMS Member can arise because of misunderstandings or a breakdown in communication and can often be resolved by a conversation. If you have not already done so please speak to the Member to discuss your concern. It is important that the member has the opportunity to address your concerns and re-visit if required. (Charges may apply)
If this doesn’t resolve the matter, or you cannot contact the Member, you MUST write to the Member concerned setting out the problem, giving them ten working days to respond. You may also wish to ask for an appointment or talk to them at a mutually convenient time.
If the person concerned is an employee of a Member, you should approach the proprietor of the business. You MUST follow the Members’ or Company’s complaints procedure in the first instance if they have one which should comply with the SMS Feedback and Complaints Process.
We recommend that this be sent via email or recorded post. Our Members cannot accept social media messages or text messages for the purpose of making a complaint.
The Consumer Regulations state that if you are unhappy with the standard of work you must allow the Member the opportunity to put things right, which may include a further visit to review any work undertaken and where necessary correct any work.
This does not affect your statutory rights if goods are faulty.
Upon receipt of the expression of dissatisfaction/grievance you can expect a response from the member and hopefully a way forward.
If you remain dissatisfied with the outcome at this stage, or you have not heard from the member for ten working days, you should go to Stage 2 of the complaint’s procedure.
If you have allowed ten working days for a response from your initial contact with a Member and you have not received a response or you remain dissatisfied with the outcome you can request your complaint be escalated to stage 2. Either party can escalate the grievance to stage two for mediation. To escalate to the next stage you must:
- Contact the Society of Master Saddlers by completing the online form below. If you prefer you may request a complaint form from the SMS office. (01449 711642 email@example.com)
(The Society is unable to assist or continue to assist in a complaint where the complainant has posted comments or videos relating to the matter on social media such as Facebook and Twitter.)
- Attach all copies of correspondence which has passed between yourself and the Member concerned or send via email at the time of submitting the form.
- Make your request within ten working days of receiving your stage one response where possible.
If a second opinion is required, the SMS can appoint an independent, impartial SMS Member who is suitably qualified to inspect the work/services carried out as part of the Mediation Stage in line with the Code of Conduct. (Fees will apply for this service)
You should NOT enlist the services of any third party without first concluding your business with the original SMS Member, this includes resolving your complaint.
A second opinion will not be accepted from a third party who has subsequently sold saddlery or services to the complainant as this would not be considered to be an independent and unbiased opinion.
If a second opinion has already been given, it can only be considered if it has been carried out in line with the Society’s Code of Conduct and must be in writing. The person giving the second opinion must have contacted the original supplier and have access to the original fitting records. (It should be noted that ‘hearsay’ is not acceptable evidence and will not be taken into consideration.)
A second opinion on workmanship or saddlery fitting will only be accepted from a suitably qualified SMS Member(s).
When a third party has altered the product, responsibility for service and/or product passes to that third party and invalidates the complaint.
If you prefer you can send supporting documentation and material directly to:
Hazel Morley, CEO
The Society of Master Saddlers
Green Lane Farm, Stonham, Suffolk. IP14 5DS
When a Stage 2 request is received, the complaint will be reviewed by the SMS Mediator / Liaison Officer.
The Liaison Officer will contact both parties and request further information if required. They will be able to advise both parties on what is required from its Members and try to support both parties to reach an amicable resolution.
If we are unable to proceed, we will write to you explaining why. For example, the consumer regulations have been followed correctly and therefore the outcome would not alter.
The Society acts as a trade association of manufacturers and retailers of saddlery to promote, watch over, and advance the interest of such manufacturers and retailers and encourage efficient service by them to the public. In pursuance of this the Society will look at any complaint in conjunction with the Code of Conduct and will try to mediate in any dispute with the aim of achieving a satisfactory outcome.
If a mutual amicable solution can not be resolved between the complainant and the Member at the mediation stage the Society’s Mediator / Liaison Officer will refer the matter to be heard by the Review and Complaints Committee under stage 3.
It is important that you recognise that the powers of the Society are limited. The Society cannot prohibit free speech and it should be recognised that Members are entitled to express their own honestly held opinions.
Only a court of law has the authority to order any action or payment in connection with a complaint.
Trading Standards / Citizens Advice will advise you as to your consumer rights.
The Society of Master Saddlers does not have the authority to order a refund or part refund by the original supplier, irrespective of the outcome of the complaint. Nevertheless, genuine effort will be made to deal with the problem and achieve a satisfactory solution.
Review by Complaints Committee
If your complaint remains unresolved following the completion of Stage 2 – Mediation – the matter will be brought before the Complaints Committee of the Society which will decide whether or not to uphold the complaint. The committee will decide:
- Whether or not the Member has abided by the code of conduct
- Make recommendations to the Complainant and Member for resolution. Any recommendations will not conclude whether or not an individual has acted unlawfully
- Notify both parties of their decision within ten working days of the review
Only a court of law can decide whether an Individual has acted unlawfully.
The Complaints Committee’s role is to decide if the Member has acted within the Society of Master Saddler’s Code of Conduct. Where it is found a Member has not followed the code of conduct and/or applied the appropriate policies and procedures, they will make recommendations to the Member on how to resolve the complaint and how to improve their working conduct.
If the Member does not implement the recommendations, they may then be referred to the Executive Committee for disciplinary action.
Upon conclusion of the review, both parties will be notified in writing of the outcome within ten working days of the meeting of the Complaints Committee.
Where a complaint is complex, is part of one or more complaints against a Member, involves misconduct of a Member or a Member fails to implement the resolution recommendations, the Feedback & Committee may refer the case/s to the Executive Committee for further action and/or internal disciplinary measures.
The Executive Committee will consider the case/s then decide on any appropriate action to take which may include a Performance Improvement Plan or suspension of Membership as part of the disciplinary process.
Rights of Appeal
Once the Complaints Committee have concluded their investigations and provided details of the outcome, this concludes the complaints process.
Should the complainant be dissatisfied with the outcome of the complaints process they should seek independent legal advice as to any further action they wish to take against a Member.
Only a court of law can decide whether an Individual has acted unlawfully. Complainants would need to seek independent legal advice as to any further steps they wish to take against a Member.
Any conclusions and reports from the complaints process may be used as evidence in a court of law by either party.
If you are unhappy with how the complaint has been handled by the SMS, you may inform the Executive Committee of your dissatisfaction. You must write to the SMS within fourteen days of receiving your final letter.
Upon receipt of your letter, we will acknowledge your request for referral to the Executive Committee within seven working days. The Executive Committee will hear your case at the next Executive Committee Meeting. It is important to note that the hearing is ONLY in relation to the handling of the COMPLAINT and whether due process has been followed. They WILL NOT hear or pass judgement on the outcome of your complaint itself.
Equality and Diversity Equality is at the heart of everything the Society of Master Saddlers does and our aim is to treat people fairly with respect and dignity. The policy complies with legal requirements in relation to age, disability, gender, pregnancy and maternity, marriage and civil partnership, gender reassignment, race, religion or belief and sexual orientation.
Reasonable adjustments will be made for people with disabilities.
Clear and accurate records of all compliments and complaints will be kept for a minimum of three years. Please refer to the Society’s Privacy Statement
Whilst the Society will endeavour to handle complaints within the due process noted there may be circumstances which prevent matters being dealt with in a timely manner.