Learning to love complaints handling

We live in an increasingly consumer orientated society and our customers have more information than ever before at their fingertips. Mortgage information can be sourced via websites, listings magazines and financial pages in the daily press. But as I have alluded to in this column before, this does not necessarily mean more educated customers - more likely more confused consumers.

It is essential that any service industry listens to and engages with its customers. One area the British are supposed to be world class in is complaining. We have plenty of issues to get our teeth into. The weather for starters, and the state of public transport the road system to name just a few of the usual suspects.

Consumers now know they have rights and there has been a move toward more consumer pressure over the past decade. Expectations of service delivery are much higher now. In short, customers are more demanding. This is the case for both intermediaries and lenders. We have all been forced to review our customer facing skills and those who haven’t should do so now. There is an NVQ in customer service and, given some of my contacts with financial institutions, I can tell you some staff need to do this qualification.

Sometimes things go wrong and you will face a customer complaint. This is a fact of service industry life but I reckon your customers’ complaints are some of the best feedback you’ll get. It is free and in many cases relevant. Yes, there are professional complainers out there but these can be spotted a mile off.

Complaints come in various forms and it is essential they are all handled compliantly. It’s worth remembering the definition of a complaint is any expression of dissatisfaction, not only one in writing. Phone conversations and face to face meetings are all valid. I won’t take you paragraph by paragraph through the FSA’s Handbook and Dispute resolutions: complaints, but timeframes for responding, recording and reporting are just some areas for consideration. Remember the complaint must be dealt with using the regulatory procedure whether you think it valid or not. And note, it must be handled by a competent person who is not involved with the complaint.

Complaints help businesses weed out bad practices and improve the customer offering. And customers’ expectations of the service they receive will continue to rise .

Dealing with complaints can be time consuming and frustrating but think of the time spent on complaints handling as time well invested. Simon biddle