7 Complaint Handling Tips for Digital & Traditional Banks 

Dear Reader,

Here at The Experience Corporation, we are passionate about effective complaint handling. We understand that sometimes things go wrong and that’s OK – what’s most important is how things are put right.

I have carefully put together a summary of the most recent data in relation to banking and credit complaints. Following this, I have provided 7 practical tips which any digital or traditional bank can apply in response to the data and trends.  

Grab a coffee and enjoy a 4-minute read of this blog post which I truly believe will save you time, money and perhaps some stress when it comes to complaint handling. 

2022 Banking Complaint Trends 

Let’s start by looking at some crucial complaints data and trends from the past 6 – 12 months. 

  • Between January 2022 – June 2022 financial services firms in the UK received 1.88 million new complaints which is an increase of 1% from the previous year (Financial Conduct Authority: FCA)
  • Current accounts are currently the most complaint about product (FCA)
  • The biggest issue customers complained about between January 2022 and June 2022 was customer service (Financial Ombudsman Service: FOS)
  • The overall uphold rate for banking and credit complaints between January 2022 and June 2022 was 43% (FOS)
  • A significant proportion of recent complaints referred to the FOS were in relation to fraud and scams. 
  • In particular there has been an increase in ‘authorised scam’ complaints and most of these are upheld in the customers favour (FOS) 

What Does it All Mean? 

The 1% increase in complaints highlights the modern customer’s demand for exceptional customer experiences and their high expectations of banks. There is room for improvement in relation to the service being provided to current account customers. Frontline staff need to be equipped with the right skills and abilities to be able to deliver outstanding service levels and to handle complaints effectively. 

The 43% FOS uphold rate for banking complaints shows there is room for improvement in relation to the outcomes of complaints before they are referred to the FOS. Digital Banks should invest in their complaint handling processes and procedures to ensure they are fair reasonable and customer centric. This includes guidelines around investigation, responses, reasonable assumptions and compensation. 

Additionally, the approach to authorised scam complaints within your bank may need to be reviewed and updated to reflect a more impartial approach. This will ensure customers who have been victims of this type of fraud are given the fairest possible investigation before potentially referring their complaint to FOS. 

7 Practical Tips

Tip 1: Understand the Current Climate

As the cost of living has increased, your customers are likely to be experiencing some level of financial pressure. Families in particular are having to spend more money on energy bills, the weekly food shop and fuel. As a result, complaining customers may be more upset, stressed and inpatient when speaking with your customer facing staff. 

To help complaint handlers to provide an excellent level of service during the cost-of-living crisis, ensure they are equipped with resources and tools. This can include an up-to-date list of organisations which customers can be referred to such as food banks and StepChange. Complaint handlers should also be reminded during weekly team meetings to be patient, empathetic and to treat each customer as an individual.

Tip 2: Acknowledge Complaints Quickly  

A person complaining to your bank is already upset about something so you should work extra hard to help them with their problem promptly. Complaints should be acknowledged instantly if they are made to a customer service representative over the phone. Complaints received via email, or your app should also be responded to quickly. This can be via an instant automated message or from a real person within an hour. 

The acknowledgement should assure the complainant you are looking into things and will issue a response within 8 weeks. As this timescale can appear quite long, the acknowledgement should reassure customers that someone will be in touch soon to try and resolve the complaint. 

Tip 3: Encourage Both Productivity and Quality 

Complaint handling teams can be one of the busiest departments within a bank with each complaint handler having a high workload. There should be an equal emphasis from management that both productivity and quality are essential and important. 

To achieve this, managers should focus on equipping their team with the practical skills they need to resolve complaints both quickly and efficiently. These skills include active listening, investigating effectively and writing comprehensive response letters in plain English.  

Tip 4: Pick up the Phone 

Complaint handlers should proactively pick up the phone to speak with customers about their cases. This is the best way for them to truly understand what the person is unhappy about. Speaking with consumers also benefits the bank as complaint handlers are given the opportunity to restore trust with the customer by apologising and listening to what has happened. 

There are some instances where a phone call may not be necessary such as complaints which are about simple issues such as bank charges. 

Tip 5: Standardise Work Processes 

Processes within your complaints department should be standardised and documented so that complaint handlers can follow the same proven processes for success. This will probably be different depending on the product being complained about.  For example, the investigation method for a credit card complaint is likely to be different to the investigation method for a mortgage complaint. 

Here are some examples of processes which can be standardised: 

  • The Acknowledgement of complaints
  • Steps to Investigate a complaint 
  • How to analyse evidence  
  • Outcome letter templates 
  • Compensation processes
  • Compensation amounts  
  • Quality checks of complaints  

Standardising workflows has an enormous positive impact on productivity, efficiency and the customer experience. 

Tip 6: Make Empathy a Priority

When a person has taken the time to complain, it’s likely they’ve had a bad experience with your bank. The best way to win this customer’s trust again is to empathise with their situation. Empathy can be expressed in a number of ways such as the following: 

  • Making a genuine apology over the phone, via email or directly through your app
  • Taking the time to listen to your customer and to display active listening skills such as verbal nods (a sound such as ‘mmm’ which indicates you are engaged in what the person is saying) 
  • Complaint handlers should reassure complaining customers by explaining they will do everything they can to resolve the complaint 

Tip 7: Invest in Your Complaint Handling Team 

Complaint handling for a bank is no easy job as it involves high level problem solving, demanding workloads and lots of communication with grieved customers. Complaint handlers are often in danger of burnout, stress and overtiredness. To help your complaint handlers to their workload, invest in their physical and mental fitness. 

Staff should be encouraged to take annual leave and finish work on time whether they are in the office or working from home. Managers should urge their teams to take a minimum of 30 minutes for lunch away from their desk and to get some fresh air either from a walk or by opening the window. These small steps will help employees to reduce stress and improve their mood. 

In terms of physical health, employees should have access to either a gym, a discount on gym membership or perhaps something more innovative such as discounts on a digital fitness program accessible from home.

By investing in your complaint handlers, they are less likely to have sick days due to work related stress and burnout. 

Need Some Extra Help? 

Are you ready to apply these seven practical tips to your bank but don’t have the time or resources?  Check out our exclusive complaint handling online course The Complaint Handling Masterclass: A Guide for Financial Services Teams.

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