We’re all striving do what’s right for our customers. No business wants to get it wrong. But things don’t always go to plan, and so complaints are a fact of life. In these situations, the best way of keeping the trust of your customers is by listening to and dealing with their grievances effectively and efficiently. 

As a result of Covid-19, the finances of your customers and the market as a whole have been put under unprecedented pressure. Add an increase in customer vulnerability on top of an uncertain financial situation and its natural that complaints are going to skyrocket. It shouldn’t come as a shock then that the Australian Financial Complaints Authority (AFCA) has reported that monthly complaints have risen by 13.7% this financial year, when compared to last year.

On top of that, ASIC’s recently updated complaints handling guidance shortens the timeframes for responding to a complaint from 45 days to 30 days, and from 90 days to 45 days for superannuation-related responses. By planning ahead, you can make sure that complaints are handled properly and within the right timeframes, and the customer loyalty you’ve worked so hard to build over the years isn’t irreparably damaged.

Where are complaints rising? 

  1. Superannuation has long been the subject of complaints and so it’s unlikely that this year will be any different. With fluctuating markets and many consumers seeing their incomes suddenly dry up, the Government has made it possible for individuals feeling the financial burden to access their super early – a welcome measure, but not without its own risks.  

    So far, the majority of complaints have centred on delays to early release but it is likely that we’ll start to see a shift towards the policy’s appropriateness for individuals further down the line. After all, for customers who need access to cash now, the longer term consequences of early release were likely to be only a passing thought. Were your risk warnings explicit enough? 

    ASIC have introduced measures to facilitate access to timely advice for early release of superannuation, such as the no-action position for advice on early release. However, the quality of this advice and the extent to which it helped members to make the right choice is also up for debate.

  2. Many consumers were, and still are, able to defer loan repayments as the big banks tried to support their customers who are financially vulnerable. But these policies are only temporary and pretty soon, customers will have to face looming expiration dates.Take a look at your policies now so that you can manage the transition period when it comes. As a minimum, ASIC expects you to be contacting consumers as early as possible, providing sufficient personalised information to help consumers make informed decision, and offering tailored assistance to those that can’t resume payments.

    But remember, extended or unlimited deferrals to repayments won’t automatically mean good consumer outcomes. You need to ensure that your approach balances the needs of your shareholders and the fair treatment of your customers.

By planning ahead, you can make sure that complaints are handled properly and within the right timeframes

How can you prepare?

Generally, measures introduced by the government have been welcomed but there is always the risk that customers will lodge a complaint in the future. Maybe they feel that the loan repayment holidays weren’t right for them or that they weren’t given explicit warnings of the risks.

Bear in mind that ASIC’s recently updated guidance extends the definition of a complaint to include posts on social media and complaints made “about” an organization. Evaluate your resources now so that you are equipped for both a rise in complaints and the need to deal with the quicker. Do you have enough customer service resources or can you boost your team with external contractors? Can you use resources from elsewhere or do you need to upskill all of your front-line staff?

Vulnerability is on the rise and can affect your customers at any time, meaning your customer-facing staff are under more pressure than ever. But any AFCA referrals will likely bring additional regulatory scrutiny, so it’s something you need to be on top of. With the right training, your front-line staff will be able to recognise even the most subtle signs of customer vulnerability. And if they’re equipped with the skills necessary to handle sensitive customer conversations and your policies are flexible enough, then your staff can tailor their approach to meet the needs of individual customers.

You can also get ahead by leveraging technology. Take advantage of analytics tools that can tell you exactly what is being said on a customer call, giving you invaluable MI. You can then categorise complaints into themes, spot any emerging trends and make proactive changes to your customer experience. This will help you to effectively allocate resources and train staff to address issues that you know are likely to appear.

Sometimes remediation is unavoidable, and in these circumstances, outsourcing to a third party is always best if you want high-quality results as quickly as possible. Our high-performance remediation solution revolutionises traditional file review processes. We use tech-enhanced population selection. The less time your reviewers spend on admin means more time spent getting the right outcomes for your customers.

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Whether you want a review of your complaints handling framework or need remediation support, we can help.

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