How to Stop Consumer Complaints from Falling through the Cracks
Remember our article about how the ways in which your financial company handles or neglects consumer complaints correspond to the “broken windows” theory? (If you missed the post, click here.) The good news is that your friends/frenemies at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau don’t like broken windows, either—and they’re here to help repair your façade from the inside out.
The CFPB has done some homework for you and developed a best practice model for managing consumer complaints. Here are the agency’s key components for a complaint management program:
- Intake: Be sure complaints and inquiries, regardless of where or how they’re submitted, are recorded (date- and time- stamped) and categorized by topic or product.
- Escalation: The program appropriately escalates complaints that raise legal issues involving potential consumer harm from unfair treatment or discrimination, or other regulatory compliance issues.
- Response: Employees promptly address and resolve complaints and inquiries regarding the organization or its service providers.
- Analysis: Complaint data and individual cases drive adjustments to business practices as appropriate.
- Resolution: Consumer complaints result in retrospective action to correct the effects of the company’s actions, when appropriate.
Manual Systems Can Leave You with More Broken Windows
If you follow our blog, you’ve seen how consumer complaints are valuable to your business’ continued success. To maximize their value, you need a system that can both manage complaints effectively and adhere to the CFPB’s guidance.
The CFPB doesn’t go so far as to mandate how to implement a complaint management system. They don’t really care whether you’re maintaining it through paper files, spreadsheets, or an automated system, as long as you can demonstrate that your system works.
Any compliance professional, however, knows that not all systems are created equal. If you manage customer feedback manually through paperwork or spreadsheets, you’re creating cracks for complaints to fall though. Because it’s not easy to track, categorize, or verify information in manual systems, data disappears:
- emails get lost or deleted,
- phone messages go unheard,
- letters collect dust in file folders,
- no one checks online form responses,
- a row in your spreadsheet gets deleted or overwritten,
- and so on.
Manual complaint resolutions methods are time-consuming, as well. It’s no simple task to manage hand-off and escalations, causing even more issues to slip off the radar.
The result? Neglect. Little problems become larger problems. And larger problems are expensive.
Identify Trends and High Risk Areas
For the greatest possible protection against regulatory risk, consider automating your complaint response program. Automation allows your company to not only track individual consumer complaints, but also to identify trends and high risk areas before they affect your reputation and your bottom line. Think of it as an early warning system that alerts you to issues well before they impact your business.
There are two key advantages to an automated CMS:
Tracking and Accountability
- As complaints come in, the system immediately and automatically logs, categorizes, and routes each complaint to the correct person at your organization.
- When action is necessary, data is already organized, flagged, and accounted for.
- Issues are easier to identify and track on a continuous basis.
- The system allows management to oversee and resolve complaints at a glance.
- The system documents results and audit trails for executive review and investigation.
- Emerging issues can be addressed, and lingering issues don’t compromise priority.
- Trends and root causes become apparent, so leadership can implement changes.
- The system makes it easy to update employee training procedures.
Complaints don’t go unnoticed in an automated system that alerts your organization and facilitates resolution in real time. You can repair dents and dings before a break occurs, and quickly turn complaints into a business advantage.
No More Broken Windows
When you’re managing complaints, you have a choice. You can either a) actively listen to your customers and tend to their complaints, or b) risk having customers leave your business—taking your profits and brand reputation along with them.
Choice a gives you a rare, two-for-one opportunity to satisfy your customers and regulators at the same time. An automated compliance management system that handles customer ensures that nothing falls through the cracks—because there will be no cracks to begin with.