Customer service has always been important, but in today’s remote world, having more and better options to manage service requests, complaints and disputes is no longer a ‘nice to have’ but a necessity to avoid harm to reputation, potential regulatory exposure and loss of business. Importantly, the ability to manage complaints and disputes in an effective and compliant manner is now critical to success.
To explore how Australian organizations can improve their complaints and disputes management processes, iTNews recently hosted a webinar where Matthew Talbot (Head of Financial Services, APJ, ServiceNow) and Rahul Zarabi (Director, Financial Services Technology Consulting, EY) discussed the issue and also surveyed business leaders about in their management here. The results are eye opening…
Customer expectations have evolved rapidly
Both the webinar and the survey showed that, since the start of the pandemic, there has been a sharp increase in customer use of digital channels to interact with organizations. This change, in Zarabi’s view, has led to a decrease in trust in general as customers feel more disconnected. He says, “There are different views of what is normal and what the customer’s priorities are. Today’s customer is more educated and has more ways to complain.”
Meanwhile, EY tracked the overall increase in customer complaints and disputes and, at the height of COVID, it was, “Astronomically high.”
Today’s customers won’t hesitate to cancel a service in response to query delays: Source, iTNews and ServiceNow research.
There are also increased expectations when it comes to getting a resolution. Products are assessed on a more critical scale than ever before. According to EY research, the 12 percent use of digital channels (pre-COVID-19 and in 2021) has now sunk to 45 percent. What’s more, dissatisfied customers now inform twice as many people about negative experiences compared to pre-COVID.
Talbot says the ‘new consumer’ now expects a modern, Facebook/Amazon/Google-like customer experience from traditional service providers, such as banks. He added, “Complaint and dispute handling should be a consistent experience with customers who need to know where they are in the process and when it will be resolved. From the customer’s perspective, every little problem is a big one problem.”
What was done well and what needs to be improved
Presenters agreed that the biggest skill gap regarding customer complaint and dispute handling is that training needs to reflect the policy. Although most financial services organizations have policies based on the RG 165/RG 271 regulations (which define what financial services companies must do to comply with ASIC’s requirements regarding to complaints and dispute resolution), the reality is that they are not compliant in many areas. Zarabi makes the following observations:
- Complaints and Disputes handling systems: A common approach is to go straight to CRM. Organizations that do this well bridge the gap between CRM and regulatory requirements and have a dispute resolution process in place.
- Complaints and Disputes operating model: Before COVID hit, this relationship was almost linear. But, there is now an emerging trend where organizations are moving towards a hybrid model where they elevate first-line support staff to handle the majority of complaints and disputes before the second level looks into those complaints or disputes of specialists.
- Affective customer management: It is still unregulated, but there will be higher expectations in the future as organizations want to know what complaints vulnerable customers are making and why.
Talbot added that the gap in resources, training and problems surrounding COVID in general, has accelerated complaint handling problems and disputes. For example, when COVID hit New Zealand’s Kiwibank, it was forced to temporarily close its branches but saw its call centers damaged. Talbot said, “The Bank very quickly had to start automating its processes for how it services customers – everything from complaint and dispute handling to reporting.”
Develop an end-to-end complaints and dispute handling culture
How do organizations bridge the gaps between their CRMs, case management systems and compliance systems? Talbot believes that handling complaints and disputes needs to be part of end-to-end business processes – not isolated to separate systems as they used to be. Talbot says, “We see opportunities to automate risk control in complaints and dispute case management processes and integrate it with real time CRM.”
Organizations can also be improved by embedding effective handling of complaints and disputes culture throughout the business. Zarabi commented, “For too long, organizations have not valued complaints or disputes as a valuable source of information and have not invested enough resources to handle this data.”
Without complaints and information on disputes, organizations cannot act on them and do not address the root of the problem. To improve the situation, it is important to clarify that there is someone responsible for the complaints and disputes framework plus, there is an effective delegation of responsibilities to other team members in an end-to-end, complaints handling framework.
“We need to remind staff that we value complaints and disputes and what they tell us about our products, services and our people,” Zarabi said. “It allows us to fix the underlying issue. That’s a major benefit.”
Presenters agreed that financial services companies must integrate processes and people and then use technology to support it, not the other way around. The consensus is that, while it is important to better manage complaints and disputes, it is also important to reduce the number of complaints and disputes an organization receives in the first place.
Quantifying the benefits of better complaint and dispute handling
Both the discussion and the survey showed that better complaint and dispute handling would deliver tangible business benefits with Talbot saying it also helps employees and reduces costs by driving efficiency. “Many organizations have single solutions and manage them separately, which is difficult. But, from the consumer’s point of view, they don’t care. Addressing the omnichannel strategy has become very important for financial services companies because you’re not going to get a consistent user experience if you’re running siled systems.”
That is why it is more common to see the which is now aligned with customers’ digital experiences. According to Zarabi, the wider business risk of poor complaints and disputes handling is clear: whether it’s loss of business, reputational damage, or the risk of regulatory non-compliance, it can have a significant impact. financially and socially.
“What’s critical is, it’s not just the loss of that particular customer, it’s the loss of all future customers,” Zarabi said.
Ultimately, the panelists agreed that there is now significant traction at the board level regarding complaints and handling of disputes, and that this has finally been addressed. To view iTnews and ServiceNow’s recent webinar, watch the recorded livestream here.