Make Handling Bank Complaints Part of Good Customer Service

How does your bank handle complaints?

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Have you carefully examined your process for handling bank complaints lately? If not, you could be missing out on an opportunity to create happier customers and increase retention with better customer service.

Every regulatory agency makes it easy for consumers to file bank complaints. In fact, since it began collecting complaints, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has handled more than a million complaints against financial institutions. These complaints revolve around various issues, including debt collection, credit reporting, mortgages, bank accounts or service, consumer loans, and student loans.

What does customer service have to do with banking?

But even though it’s easy to have bank complaints stack up, it’s possible that your bank might not have done much to the complaint-handling process since making a big push in 2013, not long after the CFPB began collecting complaints. Customer experience research firm Temkin Group surveyed 10,000 U.S. consumers, who gave banks a grade of 67% for customer experience last year, down from 71% in 2015. This low experience rating could indicate a gap in the way banks are handling customer complaints. Uh-oh.

And if that’s not enough to motivate you, remember that implementing an effective complaint-handling process is not just a good business practice. It is a requirement. As bankers already know and are celebrating, effective March 31, eligible small banks will find their call report reduced from 85 to 61 pages, removing about 40% of the data input that was previously required. But this reduction in paperwork does nothing to reduce regulator expectations related to the handling of bank complaints. Regardless of the bank’s size and complexity, the internal bank process to hear and respond to complaints has to be flexible and grow with the times.

What can banks do about experience ratings trending down?

With experience ratings trending down, now is a great time to review and revamp your complaint-handling process and put the tools in place to make your institution shine in comparison to your peers.

Here are five best practices for handling customer complaints that will help you turn them into opportunities to provide better service:

  1. Make it easy for customers to complain. Make sure your website and your staff are prepared to receive and document customer feedback.
  2. Record complaints by time period and product or service category.
  3. Be sure that all complaints are recorded, even if they are resolved. Just because we can resolve a customer’s issue doesn’t mean we don’t want them to talk to us. Often, complaints are a window into bank processes that aren’t working as expected, a lack of training, or a potential sales opportunity.
  4. Use the CFPB complaint process as a model. Be sure your complaint process addresses the key points of this process. The basic tenets of this model include, routing the complaint to the appropriate department, making a record of the complaint, providing a time-sensitive response, following up to make sure the issue is resolved, and analysis and reporting the data to management.
  5. Beware of becoming too comfortable if you haven’t been getting many complaints. This could be an indication that your process is out of date or you’re not making it easy enough for consumers to file a complaint.

How do you test your customer experience?

To test your process, think like a consumer. Is it easy to reach out to your bank for help? Is your staff up to date on current complaint-handling procedure? Think about it from the point of view of an elderly person or a working mom. Having a customer feedback process that is easy, responsive, and effective is a big step toward creating more satisfied customers.

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