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The four most important things to do when dealing with complaints

30th November 2020

The four most important things to do when dealing with complaints

Complaints handling rules look complex. There are rules on eligibility, timeliness, escalation, and the structure of your response. But really there are only four essentials every complaint handler needs to do (plus of course all the regulatory requirements regarding timeliness and response letters).

Read and listen

Itís tempting to try and problem solve the issue but it is so important to listen to what the customer has to say, for two reasons:

  • ∑You need to understand the complaint and what resolution the complainant seeks. 
  • ∑The customer must feel listened to.

The customerís perception of how well the complainant has been handled will be how they feel and that will be affected by whether they have been allowed to speak. Give them time to tell their story. It will be time well spent and help you resolve the complaint.

Reflect

OK this should be obvious, but Iíve seen many complaint teams rush into a solution. Yes, sometimes you can do something straightaway but usually you need time to think about what the customer has told you and to investigate. Most customers who complain, do so out of frustration and want to make sure whatever has gone wrong is fixed so other customers wonít suffer in the same way.

Earlier this year I complained about the fact my mumís building society would only pay out (following her death) to me (and my brother) either direct to another Nationwide account or by cheque that they posted. We got the cheque but I thought it was dreadful that in this electronic and security conscious age they could (and would) not pay direct to our bank accounts. My complaint was not about the people (who were all very helpful) but about the process. I wanted to know others would not be affected in the same way. The process had been set up in a certain way and I needed someone to get it changed - not just tell me they had done nothing wrong as they followed the process.

In this day and age as technology and our needs change, processes also need to evolve.

Do what you say you will do

This is one of my big bugs! If someone says they are going to phone you back with an answer, then do it.

In my experience most people over-promise. The key is to only promise what you know you can do. If you can then do better, how great for the customer.

A clear response

When you have reviewed the complaint, you need to issue a clear response. It needs a structure. Set out the details of the complaint, what you have reviewed and your conclusion. This should be easy to read. A few key essentials:

  • ∑Avoid technical language
  • ∑The response should be readable as a stand-alone document

When you have written it. Imagine it is then going to be published in a newspaper without any explanation. Does it make sense? How does it read? Does it feel fair?

I hope this has helped.

Iím currently working on my complaints handlers e-learning course which will be released in 2021 - so please let me know if you have any questions or observations about what you would like me to include in the course.

Author: Sally Pearce (Conduct Matters Ltd)


Sally Pearce started Conduct Matters in 2014 after 35 years working in the insurance industry. She was originally an underwriter, but since 2000 has worked in dispute resolution and helping Insurance firms understand how to treat their customers fairly. Her experience includes working for the Financial Ombudsman, in the Lloydís market and dealing with regulators. Sally is ACII, a qualified mediator and yoga teacher. She is also available for public speaking.


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