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Wednesday, July 08, 2020

Opinion > Huntswood

Ensuring your firm doesn’t fall foul of the perception gap

Kate Woollard, engagement and brand manager at Huntswood | 08:59 Wednesday 7th August 2019

The complaints process is a vital part of any business.

Anyone can relate: if you’ve had a bad experience when trying to resolve an issue with a provider, it may make you revaluate your options and potentially even switch to a new provider. This scenario is exactly why it’s so important firms get complaints processes right and provide the best possible outcomes for their customers. 

Huntswood’s Complaints Outlook 2019 recently revealed that 60% of financial services firms believe their customers are satisfied with their complaints handling, while only 22% of customers actually report that they are satisfied. This demonstrates the scale of the perception gap between financial firms’ understanding of how well they’re handling complaints and what customers think of their experience.

Good complaints handling can not only drive deeper relationships with customers and ensure they stay loyal, it can lead to a positive snowball effect in customer advocacy. If a third of customers share their positive experience or outcome with others, then there is an obvious commercial incentive for achieving complaints excellence: good complaints handling attracts more customers. Additionally, the stronger a firm’s complaints process, the less likely it is that issues are escalated to the Financial Ombudsman, reducing the risk of costly payouts. 

There are several small steps firms can take to address their processes and ensure they are not falling foul of the perception gap.

Speedy resolutions of complaints 

Despite 76% of customers expecting a resolution at ‘first point of contact’ (FPOC), only 20% reported this as a reality. Firms were at odds with this and reported that 46% of cases are typically resolved at FPOC. Quick resolutions are becoming the expected standard, and firms that can’t keep pace with expectation and maintain (if not improve) quality will be left behind.  

Offer an omnichannel experience  

Firms should ensure that customers can contact them through a variety of channels. Some 70% of customers whose complaints were not resolved at FPOC interacted with their provider through at least two different channels during their complaints journey. Only one in three customers believe that firms are embracing digital technology to better manage and resolve complaints. This is slowly changing, but not at the pace customers expect. 

Explore automation as part of the channel mix

The fact that 50% of customers don’t mind talking to an automated system, as long as it resolved their complaint quickly, strengthens the business case for firms to explore automation and will help increase the chances of resolving a complaint at FPOC. 

Improve the treatment and recognition of vulnerable customers

Ensuring the fair and equitable treatment of vulnerable customers remains a challenge and high on the regulator’s agenda, especially in terms of managing the changing and often transient nature of vulnerability. Firms need to ensure they have a single holistic view of each customer available to all frontline staff — this will enable a seamless complaints experience where vulnerable individuals are identified at the earliest possible opportunity.  

Ensuring companies don’t fall foul of the perception gap is one challenge, but firms should actively seek to ensure that complaints don’t arise in the first place. This will reduce the number of complaint handlers required and ensure that staff are freed up to comprehensively and effectively deal with more complex cases. Companies should regularly conduct root cause analysis to establish any trackable, consistent causes of complaints and adjust their offering accordingly to minimise the impact this has on future business. Alongside simple operational changes, this should help firms to attract new customers by exceeding regulatory standards and setting themselves apart from competitors.

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