If your firm receives a complaint, you need to act fast.
Poorly handled complaints could damage your firm’s reputation and result in a payout that risks the long-term future of the business.
So, if a complaint comes your way, don’t bury your head in the sand. Be proactive and tackle the issue head-on.
Taking swift, practical action when you receive a complaint could help minimise the risk of a lengthy and costly resolution process.
If you’ve never handled a complaint before, it can feel daunting. However, delaying your response could make the process a lot more stressful.
Knowing what action to take and where to turn for support will put you in a strong position to respond quickly and effectively while maintaining positive customer relations.
So, read on for five steps for how to efficiently handle a complaint.
1. Follow procedure and maintain accurate records
Every FCA-regulated firm will have a process for handling complaints “fairly and promptly”.
However, amid the panic and stress of dealing with a complaint, it’s easy to let the documentation and reporting of the process slip.
The first essential step is to update the firm’s complaints register as soon as a complaint is received.
Next, be sure to inform your insurers of the complaint. This is an important step that should not be skipped, even if you think the claim is spurious or low value.
You must also include details of all complaints when you submit returns to the FCA.
2. Acknowledge the complaint
When you receive a complaint, it may be tempting to push it to the bottom of your to-do list and hope it goes away. It won’t!
Ignoring a complaint is a breach of FCA rules. It will also cost you valuable time. Remember, you only have eight weeks to investigate and deliver an outcome to the complainant.
Send the complainant written acknowledgement of their complaint along with a copy of the firm’s complaint policy, as soon as possible. And make sure you keep the customer updated on the progress of their complaint, too.
While it may take more time than you’d like, this could help you maintain positive customer relations and avoid aggravating the situation unnecessarily.
3. Take time to fully understand and investigate the complaint
Your final response letter needs to be sufficiently detailed and balanced to assure the complainant that the matter has been fairly investigated.
Remember, they have the right to take their complaint to the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) if they aren’t satisfied with the outcome of your investigation. So, spend time understanding why the customer is dissatisfied and what repercussions they feel this has had for them.
This could be financial loss, material distress, or material inconvenience.
Don’t be afraid to ask for more information from the customer if you need more details to fully understand their complaint. This will send a clear message that you are taking the matter seriously.
It’s easy to take a complaint to heart, so try to stay as objective as possible. Be open and ready to identify where your systems may be failing. Remain vigilant and willing to accept systemic problems such as inadequate staff training, poor root cause analysis, and tick-box compliance.
Not only will this demonstrate your willingness to be fair, but it may also help you to make specific changes to prevent recurrences of any shortcomings in the future.
4. Send a full written response
If you can resolve the complaint to the client’s satisfaction within three days, you can send a “summary resolution communication”.
Include details of how to contact the FOS and let the customer know if your company is willing to waive the applicable time limits. The FCA Handbook contains the wording you should use.
If your firm is unable to resolve the complaint within three days, you’ll need to issue a “final response”.
This should summarise the details of the complaint, provide details of the outcome and inform the customer of their right to complain to the FOS within six months of the final response.
For both a summary resolution communication and a final response, you should provide the address of the FOS and state whether your business is willing to waive the relevant time limits or not.
5. Seek advice from an expert
If your firm is not used to handling complaints, the process may feel overwhelming. But ignoring the problem won’t make it go away.
When you receive a complaint, you need to take action fast and we’re here to help.
Our industry experts can take care of every aspect of the complaints management process, from evaluation of the complaint to final response and beyond.
We offer a unique service that includes complaint management, FOS investigations, consumer dispute mediation, and more. As a specialist consultancy assisting FCA firms, we have successfully managed customer complaints, Ombudsman investigations, and civil claims for both small and large organisations.
Our pragmatic approach to dispute resolution will help you to maintain compliance with complaint handling rules while maintaining excellent customer relations.
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If you’d like to find out more about how we can help you resolve a complaint, we’d be delighted to answer your questions.