Why we appreciate it when customers complain

The complaints team at Close recently won a prestigious award – complaints manager Deborah McCready reveals what that means for brokers and customers...

It’s official – Close Brothers is one of the best companies in the UK at dealing with customer feedback. The Close complaints team beat off stiff competition recently to take win the award for the gong for “Best Use of Customer Insight and Feedback” at the UK Complaint Handling Awards.

The award comes after the team undertook an in-depth review and streamlining of its root cause analysis codes – to target exactly where and why brokers and customers were likely to be dissatisfied with how a complaint was handled. And so ensure the best possible service in future.

How tough was the competition – and why do you think Close Brothers won gold?

“I think we showed we could successfully interpret the thoughts and feelings of our customers and then translate that into knowledge and better performance. The level of competition was very high because we beat [leading UK complaints handling consultancy] Huntswood. That was quite a thing – if we’d known they were in it we might not have entered!”

The award was for work on improving complaint root cause analysis. What did that look like and how did you improve?

“When we began, we reached out to see if there were any companies leading the way in root cause analysis (RCA), but we didn’t get very far. So we had to create a process from scratch. We surveyed all our employees and asked them what were the potential blockers to efficient complaint logging. They told us the big problem was the 1,000-plus RCA codes to choose from – which make it far too complex and time-consuming, especially when you’ve got a customer on the phone. When our frontline colleagues were trying to capture customer complaints and the root cause, they’d be scrolling down a list that was so long it made their jobs almost impossible. And it was tricky at the back end too – when you’ve got such a long list, you can’t get detailed insights into your customers because the data is overwhelming. That in turn prevents implementation of important service and product improvements. And that’s why we started the process – we knew that without a proper system in place we wouldn’t be able to improve our customer journey. 

“We now have a much smaller list of codes, so we can pinpoint precisely where those trends and patterns of dissatisfaction are. It’s made the process for handing complaints so much quicker – and means we can see and analyse where the peaks and troughs are.”

What prompted you to review your analysis of complaints in the first place?

“It was colleague feedback – we were aware we were getting complaints and that the process wasn’t working as well as it could, but you need proper data to identify what isn’t working. We wanted to do an honest assessment of how complaints were handled. We sent a survey to all our complaint handlers and analysts – and too many codes came back as the main issue. So it made sense to do something about that.”

Did the root cause analysis highlight any other areas for improvement?

“There were a few broad trends, but it was about looking at all the data and joining it up. As a result, we’ve looked at some of our emails to customers, we’ve enhanced our complaints letters and we’ve put in system fixes that have made the whole complaints process a more satisfactory journey for our customers.”

Why is it important for Close to monitor its procedures and make improvements?

“Complaints for me are the best voice of the customer you can have – it makes sense to review what’s making them unhappy and then, as a business, work to address that. And it’s working – over the past 18 months our customer complaint volumes have dropped by 50%, and they’re continuing to go down. The RCA data forms the basis of our decision making and is making a real difference. All of this improves how customers interact with us and makes life easier for them – meaning they have a positive view of us.”

How will the improvements benefit brokers and the broker experience?

“Happy customers equals happy brokers – whatever we do to make our processes simpler for our customers also makes things simpler for our brokers. There’s less need for contact from customers back into our brokerages. Whatever we can do to enhance our customer experience is going to enhance the broker experience.”

Do you have any more improvements in the pipeline?

“Our system is now set up so that our root cause analysis can empower us to make constant improvements. As our company evolves and changes, so do our customers and their complaints, so it’s important that that process continues. Our RCA analysis has adapted and evolved over the past 18 months and that will continue. In addition, we have a list of continuous improvement in our pipeline, from automation of process to improvement of our customer contact. We’ll continue to add to that.”