Posted: 27th December 2019

A new year always brings new challenges and new perspectives, and it is the perfect time to make firm resolutions for both yourself and your business.

And as the slate gets wiped clean at the end of another year, we enter the 2020s! It’s almost hard to believe, I know. There’s no way to deny that we are entering a period of profound change.

Here at Huntswood, we know that the best way to prepare for any new year is to start with the basics.

If you’re starting your company’s internal new year on the calendar date, that’s great. But even if you’re halfway through a financial year, you can still use this time to make significant changes that will set you up for continued success.

And so, this is the point at which we make things easier for you. Here’s Huntswood’s top New Year’s resolutions, carefully designed to help you achieve operational excellence.

1. Make ‘complaints excellence’ your top priority

Our Complaints Outlook 2019 revealed plenty about the state of complaints handling within regulated industries such as financial services, utilities and travel.

We found that firms of all shapes and sizes, and across just about every sector, have certainly stepped up their game since our last Outlook back in 2016. But the report also identified that collectively we all have a long way to go before we achieve what Huntswood calls ‘complaints excellence’.

Those firms at the forefront of this journey are already reaping the rewards of increasing customer loyalty (hard to come by in this age of switching), greater levels of advocacy and boosted net promoter scores. Those lagging behind will see customers ‘vote with their feet’, leaving such businesses and taking their friends and family with them!

We’ve definitely had a focus on complaints this year, and if you’ve been a follower of Huntswood Insights you will have definitely heard us repeat the most crucial findings of the report.

Make sure that ‘complaints excellence’ is your goal in 2020. Your complaints function needs to aim to resolve customer issues quickly and efficiently, while displaying true empathy and high levels of knowledge.

For more guidance on how you can make 2020 the year in which you turn your complaints department from a perceived cost-centre to a profit-centre, download the Complaints Outlook 2019.

2. Learn from past mistakes to set yourself up for future success

Considering past errors is absolutely vital to learn if your business is to keep pace with the rapidly changing marketplace and regulatory landscape.

In this past decade we’ve seen mis-selling scandals rock various industries.

If you suspect that there could have been mistakes or the potential for consumer harm in your past business, you will need to address this as soon as possible. If you don’t, you could be facing harsh regulatory action and, even worse, customers leaving your business.

Undertaking a review of past business can reveal where current issues originated and allow you to make the steps required to remediate it.

Such a process may seem daunting, but with the right support and an agile approach, completing a past business review will help your business clear any backlog of issues, and give your teams time to face the challenges ahead.

We would suggest that firms take, at a high level, a four-pillar approach to past business review and remediation:

  • Understand the issue
  • Identify affected populations
  • Make sure your approach to remediation is practical and well-designed
  • Deliver appropriate remediation

3. Ensure your business is operationally resilient

Businesses need to be making preparations now, and carrying them out sooner-rather-than-later if they want their operations to be resilient enough to survive the unforeseeable issues ahead. As extreme weather events become more common, for example, many firms will start to struggle with the demand of customer contact.

Now, this doesn’t necessarily have to mean going full ‘disaster recovery’ mode – for example setting up standby offices to quickly move staff to in an emergency– but it does mean making predictions about where your firm may be hit, how you will respond and with what resource (both human and infrastructure) you will need to overcome adversity.

One way of protecting your firm is to join a resource pool in a ‘bureau model’. This will enable you to rapidly deploy staff when and where they are needed, and shrink or grow your operation at pace.

4. Remember that customers should be at the heart of it all

Customers should be considered the heart of any business, especially going forward, and that attitude should permeate every decision made.

After all, customers provide valuable, on-the-ground (and free) insight and are more than willing to share it, with the expectation that they will be heard, and their ideas implemented.

Whether your firm deals in motor finance, utilities, mortgages or anything in between, providing excellent outcomes for your customers and evidencing a culture of compliance will ensure that your firm consistently comes out ahead. Customers will certainly invest more and remain loyal to your product or service if they know that the experience is being designed for them.

5. Make sure you’re up to date on regulatory change

The world of regulation is bound to become more complicated in the coming years. We’re already seeing impactful rules from IR35 and the Senior Managers and Certification Regime having tangible impacts on the way businesses operate and on the governance structures.

As part of your New Year’s resolutions, you might want to consider investing in, or otherwise seeking out advisory experts who will be able to guide you through the potential minefields on the horizon.

But we shouldn’t see added regulation as an extra burden. In fact, many of the most widely talked-about regulations over previous years have actually opened up new commercial and operational opportunities for firms. We know that achieving compliance and approaching it with an open and non-combative nature, is the best way to move forward – for your business and for your customers.

The countdown begins …

2020 is going to be a massive year. Though none of us can predict exactly what issues will come to impact businesses, we can be sure that change will continue. To stay on top of all of this change, it’s crucial that you make resolutions now – and stick with them for the long-haul.

We wish all of our readers best wishes for the holiday season and a prosperous New Year.

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Huntswood - Insights