How Not To Manage A Complaint

We occasionally get asked to pick up the pieces when a firm “gets into difficulty” with a complaint. It’s never too late to get expert advice regarding a grievance or an Ombudsman investigation, but if a firm is embarking on managing a complaint, don’t do the following.

Ignore It

Don’t ignore a complaint! Certainly don’t think that just because it hasn’t arrived on your desk by Royal Mail, marked “This is a complaint” that anything less is not a grievance.

The FCA defines a complaint as an expression of dissatisfaction (oral or written) about the provision of, or failure to provide, a financial service. It could be made during a client visit, a call or even via a text.

Ignoring a complaint is not only a breach of the FCA rules, it could aggravate the situation and make the prospect of either an amicable resolution or settled defence more difficult.

Batten Down The Hatches

Do not approach a complaint from the perspective that the firm is always correct and that it’s not possible any client could have a fair grievance. Be objective. Understand where your customer “is coming from”. Be impartial.

Turn A Blind Eye

It is essential to analyse the cause of the complaint and investigate if there is a systemic problem. If there is, don’t ignore the root cause. Issues, for example, around lack of training or poor product design would be expected by the FCA to be addressed by the firm to identify shortcomings and ensure further similar complaints do not occur.

TCF (Does Not Apply)

Rejecting a complaint without fully considering all the circumstances is not only non-compliant but will only frustrate the complainant and make an agreed resolution harder to achieve. Above all, be fair.

You’re Right, They’re Wrong … What A Baseless Complaint!

Whether the complaint is vexatious or not, avoid using patronising language in a final response or telling the complainant that they don’t meet “the burden of proof” (yes, we’ve seen letters like that!). Responses of this nature will only raise the temperature and when the complaint inevitably ends up at the Financial Ombudsman Service, you will regret playing Rumpole of the Bailey.

There is a way of rejecting a complaint, but it is not achieved by simply “talking over” your customer or being condescending.

Shhh! Don’t Mention The Ombudsman

However the firm responds to the complaint, even when it is confident the response is fair and closes the matter, don’t forget to provide details of the Financial Ombudsman Service and the customer’s right to escalate the complaint.

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