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CertRM Series: Handling complaints - when things go wrong, make them right!

24 November, 2017Amit Gupta

Call centre 20274580MediumThis is a topic which doesn’t necessarily get as much “airtime” and in theory in an ideal world shouldn’t occur in the first place – a dreaded complaint from a customer. Cue panic!! However, if dealt in the right way, this can actually strengthen the relationship with the customer, rather than weaken it.

It is almost inevitable that things go wrong from time to time and this is no different working in a professional organisation such as a bank. Sometimes, its processes which are not followed by staff members or alternatively the customer could be unhappy with a particular product, which just isn’t what they were told it would be. Whatever the issue is, it is incumbent upon relationship managers to understand the issue, investigate and resolve it quickly.

Act and resolve

To put this into context, I have outlined an example of a recent complaint below, which I encountered;

The Financial Director (FD) of a healthcare business got in contact with the bank’s call centre to request for a particular debit card to be stopped as it was lost and for a new one to be issued as a replacement.

Fairly straightforward request, I hear you say! However, the customer services advisor (CSO) stated that the FD had failed security and that he would not be able to speak to them – the FD was not listed as a signatory on the bank’s mandate, which governs the operation of the bank accounts. Much to the customer’s dismay, something had clearly gone wrong – if there is anyone who should be on there, it is the FD. As the relationship manager, I spoke to the FD and immediately apologised and agreed that I would look into this immediately and get back to them. I then spoke to the CSO to understand the issue – it turned out that it was something as simple as the correct mandate for the company not having been loaded onto the system, and hence the CSO could not verify the FD. Clearly, the person responsible for loading such documents onto the bank’s system, had not followed the process. However, the key thing was to ensure that this was corrected swiftly, and for the existing debit card to be stopped and a replacement ordered. I then spoke to the FD a couple of hours later to explain what had happened and the action steps taken to correct it.

compressed interviewThe above is a good example of when a small link in the chain of processes isn’t followed, which can then have a detrimental impact on the end customer. However, not all complaints can be resolved as quickly – some will need to be investigated more thoroughly due to the complexity involved and hence will take substantially longer to reach a conclusion. An example of this is outlined below;

An existing business customer of the bank operates to lease specialist vehicles to the construction industry such as diggers, bulldozers and so on. They have contingent ancillary facilities with the bank such as BACS, Business Cards as well as an operating bank account. However, the account regularly goes overdrawn and the Bank is forced to return payments unpaid, if there are insufficient funds to pay creditors. As an incoming relationship manager, the customer decides to go on the offensive and raises a complaint against the bank for being ‘overcautious’ and having an ‘inflexible’ attitude towards his business. The customer’s belief is that an overdraft position of £10k would assist the business’s cash flow greatly. Having spoken to the customer and reviewed the bank’s internal credit appetite (restricted appetite to businesses either in the construction industry or supplying to it), I communicate this to the customer and empathise his need to release cash flow and working capital to the business. However, as the conversation progresses, it becomes clear that considering an alternative asset backed form of finance, such as Invoice Discounting, could be a viable solution. I discuss this with the ID manager, and agree to meet with the customer and eventually an appropriate ID facility is put in place. The customer is delighted to have released working capital into the business and the relationship is now a positive one!

We all recognise that the financial services market is competitive with intense rivalry from existing banks as well as new start-ups are challenging the way things are done. One thing is certain – trust and confidence form the cornerstone of the industry as a whole, and we all need to play our part in rebuilding this. Tackling customer’s complaints effectively and promptly will go a long way to achieve just that.

Amit Gupta is the co-author for our Certificate in Relationship Management qualification