On the 12th September, we invited industry-leading complaints and customer experience experts, as well as other contributors to the Complaints Outlook 2019, to the report's launch event in London.
Attendees listened to a series of keynote speeches and enlightening panel sessions in which our speakers broke down the core findings of the Complaints Outlook and added their own valuable insight. We’re sure all those in the audience walked away with an even deeper understanding of current and future complaints trends and will be using this knowledge to improve the experiences of their customers.
If you couldn’t make the event, however, don’t worry. We were able to record the speeches and even interview many of the speakers. We have compiled these here to give you an overview of the key takeaways from the day.
Achieving 'complaints excellence' isn’t going to happen overnight. We need to share insight and knowledge with peers in the industry for the benefit of the customers that depend on our products, services and attention to their issues.
James recognises that customers are becoming much more savvy and expecting much more from their provider – a key finding from the Complaints Outlook itself.
“The word ‘efficient’ is a very dangerous word,” he says, “because ‘efficient’ is not always ‘effective’. What we’ve done is create processes that are all about efficiency for the organisation but not effective for the consumer. We need to think about the way we are resolving and handling issues by thinking about the psychology of how we would want to engage.
“Think from the ground upwards. If you were a consumer, what would you want your experience to be?”
Even in a world in which we’re almost all online or using apps, there is still the need to make it easier to complain, he suggests. In a time in which many of us organise our entire lives online, complaints remain one of the only direct, ‘face-to-face’ opportunities for firms to put their best foot forward.
As a Sales Director for record and replay technology provider Glassbox, Simon is no stranger to complaints-tech.
“When it comes to handling complaints, you haven’t necessarily had access to all the information … [Using technology to enhance data gathering] has a number of benefits.”
Simon’s key takeaway from the event is that there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution. “Having flexibility in the way you handle customers is really important.”
“I see there is a culture shift starting in complaints,” says Liz. “When I first started to work for CCA, we were looking at firms’ complaints handling operations as being something ‘out there’. It wasn’t part of the organisation, it was seen as the place that took the complaining customers away from the real operation.
“I think that has changed completely now.”
Like us at Huntswood, Liz is happy to see customers now being considered the heart of the operation. Firms are still figuring out what this really means, but the culture change is happening. Equally important are the people that deal with your customers, and they need processes in place that allow them to deal with complaints effectively.
“A customer who is complaining has got a lot of really good information that they can give you, and I think firms are waking up to that.”
“Put the people before the processes,” is Liz’s call. According to CCA research, frontline case handlers love to help customers, be part of a team and achieve good performance. However, they tend to have too great of a focus on targets, are often dealing outdated technologies and feelings of not being appreciated. It’s easy to see, then, that making sure your complaint handlers are happy will positively impact the end customer’s experience.
“What matters is resolving complaints as fast as you can … speed is of the essence.”
With her deep understanding of customer experience, Moira suggests that if firms can resolve complaints quickly they will have a much higher chance of retaining a complaining customer. The average time taken is 33 days and that, according to Moira and the Complaints Outlook, just doesn’t bode well for customer retention rates.
“The other big takeaway is that you need staff or colleagues who are dealing with complaints who are both knowledgeable about what they’re doing and also have empathy, or ‘emotional intelligence’ to show the customer that they’re really concerned and want to help them as much as they can.”
“If you’re easy to do business with … you’re going to have a much better net promoter score.” Says Moira, reconfirming the thoughts shared in her recent guest blog for Huntswood Insights.
“Complaints provide a huge amount of insight to any business,” says Amy, “they provide really, really great feedback and prevent issues from impacting other customers."
Amy made the point that the utilities industry faces different challenges than the financial services industry. Complaints resolution in this space is often reliant on a number of different external factors. To get to the right outcome, Amy suggests utilities businesses need to foster a culture of “doing the right thing” and be able to justify how they make things right for customers.
“Make the most out of every opportunity to make things right,” Amy says, “if things continue do go wrong, this can be incredibly damaging for your business from a commercial perspective.”
Amy’s key takeaway from the day was around changing the perception of complaints as a simple burden on businesses to seeing them as valuable sources of information that they can use to grow and add value.
Zein made the point in his speech that encouraging, and measuring, customer advocacy is difficult but a totally worthwhile endeavour. He says that, currently, firms only tend to measure customer satisfaction and that is not really enough to understand the entirety of customers’ complaints journeys.
“[Some of the measures for customer advocacy include] the number of products customers continue to buy, the churn rate of consumers leaving the organisation, etc.”
Zein says that his key takeaway from the event was that the conversation is now moving from just removing barriers to complaining and being aligned with regulatory guidelines to more about how you can use complaint handling to create customer loyalty. “You can also utilise it as a tool to create new customers,” he says, “by providing those really ‘news-worthy’ [complaints] stories to people.”
“The future of complaints technology is an interesting space,” says Mark. “How do we take the repeatable, mundane tasks from the call agents? How do we get the right complaints to the right agents at the right time?
“Technology is moving to provide greater efficiency in that space, whether that’s through sentiment analysis … or sending the complaints to the people who can really, truly answer them and give the consumer the right outcome as soon as possible.”
Mark is also happy to see the conversation moving on from simply meeting regulatory requirements to complaints as an opportunity to grow businesses.
“It's really exciting to see that mindset change in how people are approaching this challenge.”
The conversation is changing – we have to move with the times
If there was one unanimous acknowledgement among the speakers at the event it was that the conversation around the function and benefit of complaint handling has changed. Firms need to keep pace with savvy, foot-loose customers and rapidly evolving technology if they are to maintain competitiveness, encourage brand advocacy and deliver an all-round better complaints experience for their customers.
The best place to start on this journey, or enhance your continuing journey to complaints excellence, is our Complaints Outlook 2019. Download it for free today.
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At a time of increasing financial and emotional pressure, firms that put complaints excellence at the centre of their operations, will win customer trust and earn long‐term loyalty
Richard Brown – Huntswood’s Technical Adviser in Complaints – answers some of the questions asked at the Complaints Outlook 2021 launch event