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How to respond when your account differs to claims being made in a complaint

If you’ve read Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid, you may recall the opening note. Based on a series of interviews with current and former members of the band, as well as family, friends and industry pros, Jenkins Reid took a moment to remind readers that “on matters both big and small, sometimes accounts of the same event differ”.

Should the book have passed you by, it’s well-worth a look. In the meantime, its serves as a useful reminder that sometimes you may encounter clients making complaints that don’t align with your recollection of events.

When this happens, it’s easy to become defensive and, potentially, let your emotions get the better of you. The problem with this is that while an emotional response is understandable, it is more likely to create bigger problems in the long run.

Fortunately, there are helpful and pragmatic steps you can take to deal with complaints from clients who have mis-remembered the facts.

1. Listen to the client’s complaint

First, make sure you fully understand the client’s complaint. Almost all complaints will arrive in writing so take the time to read the detail and gather all the information shared.

If the complaint has arrived from a complaints management company, the language used may be inflammatory. Don’t rise to it. Instead, make detailed notes of the concerns and grievances raised and keep these firmly at the front of your mind as you move on to review the client file.

2. Review the client file

In the majority of cases, your client file will hold the key to mounting a robust defence.

Hopefully, you’ll be fastidious when it comes to keeping notes and records and have extensive client files. A comprehensive client file should help you to uncover the facts of the matter and start to gather the evidence you’ll need to draft your response.

3. Gather hard evidence

Wherever possible, it’s helpful to substantiate the facts of the situation with hard evidence. Not only will this help you to support your case, but it may also go some way to soothing the complainant’s distress.

Your response should include evidence such as contracts, emails, and other relevant documents that support your version of events.

Such material evidence will help to establish a factual basis for your response and also serve as a useful reference point to correct any inaccuracies.

4. Set out the facts of the matter

With the facts and evidence gathered, the next crucial step is to present your case in a clear, logical, and concise manner.

The key here is to make your response easy for the recipient to read and understand. One way that you can achieve this is to set out your arguments in chronological order.

Take your time to lay out your defence, but don’t get bogged down in the detail – present your findings and ensure you maintain a neutral tone throughout.

5. Maintain professionalism

Regardless of the situation, it’s crucial to maintain a professional and respectful demeanour.

As mentioned earlier, it’s all too easy to rise to the bait and allow your emotions to take over. Ideally, you need to avoid becoming defensive and, instead, focus your energy on reaching an agreeable solution.

Not only will maintaining your professional “poker face” help you defend your position, but it could also go a long way in helping to preserve the client relationship and your business reputation.

6. Seek expert help

Complaints, which are often speculative, can be distracting and damaging to any business. Dealing with a complaint can prove costly – in time, potential redress, the negative impact on professional indemnity premiums, and reputational damage with both customers and the regulator.

Worse still, failing to address complaints properly can affect customer retention and open your firm to regulatory intervention.

Jencap Partners are trusted advisers, delivering expert advice and exceptional service to large and small IFAs, compliance officers, compliance consultants, and lawyers.

Professional advisers with more than 50 years’ combined experience of managing compliance and regulatory matters at the very highest of levels, we understand how to effectively manage and resolve complaints.

Well-placed to offer an unbiased and objective assessment of the situation, we will carry out a detailed forensic investigation to uncover the facts and find the evidence before drafting a comprehensive final response.

Get in touch

Find out more about how we could help you resolve a complaint by talking with one of our experts.

Please email, book a short call by completing our online form, or call 029 2000 2325.