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Streamlining the Complaints Process

Tue 10 Jul 2018

By Adam Cooper, Business Manager, Equiniti Charter

How a business handles, records and reports complaints can vary drastically. We present an action plan for reducing inefficiency through integrating resources and automating workflow processing to create a process that addresses customer issues more effectively.

How a business handles, records and reports complaints can vary drastically. Some use rudimentary paper-based processes or excel spreadsheets, others adapt their CRM and ERP solutions to do the job.

Each of these approaches has its drawbacks. Paper can see complaints duplicated or lost. Excel spreadsheets can see complaints become siloed and existing systems simply aren’t designed to handle the complex workflow and escalation associated with complaint handling.

The issue is further exacerbated by differences in the company culture. Do frontline staff have the necessary skillsets and do they have visibility of the customer to provide additional value? Are there sufficient resources to ensure complaints are investigated and customers compensated correctly, not just for material loss but also inconvenience or distress? Are complaints analysed by the team to deduce both quantative and anecdotal evidence? Is Management Information (MI) not just recorded but communicated to and effectively acted upon by senior management?

Under pressure

A failure in any one of these areas can see complaints mismanaged. Use of make-shift technological solutions can impede workflow while inappropriately trained staff can see complaints passed like the proverbial hot potato. As a result, complaints can take too long to resolve leading to the business seeing its name and reputation sullied and customers lost.  

To make matters worse, customer touchpoints are growing, with complaints made via snail mail, email, phone, webchat and social media. The tech-savvy customer now expects a rapid informed response. Competitors are moving in that are highly adept at customer relations. And regulators are seeking to make reporting flatter and more transparent by encouraging businesses to systemise the complaints reporting process and adopt RegTech.

This means many businesses need to transform their existing complaint handling process. But where to begin? They know they need put in place more effective complaint management but what few realise is that this needn’t be complex. It’s possible to streamline the process to make it more lean, efficient and effective by putting in place a customer-centric culture and automating workflow.


Get Customer-centric

  1. Expert employees – make the initial point of contact your primary focus and equip these staff with specialist knowledge and decision making powers. The idea here is to avoid a culture of ‘it’s a legitimate complaint, let’s escalate it’ as this could frustrate the customer further by increasing the number of steps they have to go through/ the people they liaise with, snowballing the issue.
    Look at how you can enhance the approach of frontline staff to customers to resolve issues more effectively. What customer insight do they have? Do they know not just their history but their preferences? Is there an opportunity to turn the complaint into a positive customer experience?
  2. Customise care – Actively promote access channels and feedback to keep on top of issues and make customers feel valued. Feedback can act as a precursor, flagging issues that could lead to complaints.
    Build a 360 view of the customer to personalise response. Don’t be tempted to continually inform them of the progress of the complaint using standard channels; instead ask them how they would like to be informed ie over email, phone or post and schedule responses, preferably via the same customer agent
  3. RegTech tools – Deploy a built-for purpose complaints management solution that can support complaints from a variety of channels to futureproof the business against change. Look for a low-impact solution that is quick to deploy and can integrate with existing systems ie CRM and ERP to maximise the information resource you hold
  4. Management oversight – gain buy-in from senior management and the board into the transformation process and use MI to provide the strategic insight needed to achieve Continuous Improvement


Streamline Workflow

  1. Data capture – understand the type of complaints being received, and the volume and frequency of these. Real-time tracking that can scale can provide the business with the capacity to handle these
  2. Customise workflows – seek to accommodate multiple workflows and use automated routing to allow numerous complaints to be handled simultaneously to enable cases to be resolved more quickly
  3. Auditable and answerable – prepare for greater scrutiny from regulatory bodies and expect more cooperation between regulators and Ombudsman organisations. Put in place procedures that can demonstrate compliance should an investigation be undertaken. Seek to provide sufficient evidence that contractual obligations and customer care principles were honoured to avoid referral to the ombudsman
  4. Data that delivers insight – Analyse complaint data and carry out Root Cause Analysis to identify and act on the cause of complaints to enact permanent solutions. Complaints can have a long-term effect on the business which is difficult to foresee but business intelligence can be generated to spot trends and forecast their effects on the business

Reducing inefficiency in the complaints management process is the key to transformation. By focusing on a curated customer response, integrating resources and automating workflow processing it’s possible to create a compliant complaints process that addresses customer issues more effectively.