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A new benchmark insights report maps the emotional journey of customers through the complaints process.  By pinpointing causes of frustration and anger, whilst celebrating best practice, the report provides financial services and utility companies with an indispensable guide on meeting and exceeding customer expectations.

The Complaints Outlook 2021, Huntswood’s benchmark insight report, maps research and demonstrates that firms who respond to complaints with empathy and clear communication have the opportunity to regain customer trust and earn customer loyalty.

Key findings include:

  • 64% of customers feel frustrated when they first discover an issue, but this rises to 74% if the process of making a complaint is made difficult.
  • 3 out of 4 customers feel angry when they have to chase for an update on their complaint and then do not receive any follow-up communication.
  • Only 1 in 3 customers rated the empathy skills of their complaint handlers as good.

Informed by a YouGov survey of 2,522 customers who made a complaint to a broad range of companies, which was then complimented with Huntswood’s bespoke research into the experiences of 500 complaint handlers and 54 financial services and utility firms, Complaints Outlook 2021 identifies and provides real insight into the following six key themes:

  1. Make it easy for me to complain. 64% of customers feel frustrated when they first discover an issue, rising to 74% if the process of making a complaint is difficult.
  2. Let me speak to the right person straight away. 80% of customers are retained when complaints are resolved within the first two days.
  3. Show me I’m valued. 17% more customers will recommend the firm to others if they feel valued when making a complaint.
  4. If it’s your fault, say sorry to me. Retention rates are 17% higher when firms say sorry when they admit fault.
  5. Keep me updated. 3 out of 4 customers feel angry when they have to chase for an update on their complaint and do not receive one.
  6. Don’t let me hear that it’s happened again. Customers want to be assured that their complaint has made a difference to how a firm operates.

Challenges and opportunities for firms

Firms interviewed identified three common challenges in delivering an excellent complaints experience, all exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic: increasing complaints volumes, increasing levels of customer vulnerability and financial pressures on firms creating a need to reduce costs.

However, these are balanced by three opportunities to improve the customer complaints experience:

  1. An increasing use of technology and automation to support customer service teams, allowing them to keep customers updated and focus resource on areas where the human touch is most needed.
  2. New ways of working allowing for more flexible resource capacity, increasing access to talented call handlers who can empathise with customers and resolve complaints quickly
  3. Improvements in root cause analysis allowing firms to identify the cause of complaints and address the problem and prevent recurrence

Currently only 1 in 20 complainants becomes an advocate for the company as a result of their complaint experience. However, the research for Complaints Outlook 2021 suggests that this can be increased to as high as 1 in 4 when customers are extremely satisfied with their overall experience.

To help unlock this value, this report provides firms with actionable insights at each stage of the complaints journey, a series of case studies and testimonials revealing real customers’ experiences and emotions and examples of best practice from a variety of sectors.

Martin Dodd, CEO of Huntswood said “We have found compelling evidence that the complaints journey offers significant opportunity for firms to deliver emotionally engaging experiences that drive customers to not only stay with an organisation, but to also become advocates.

“As we move forward into a period of change and challenge as a result of Covid-19, and with the expectation of increasing complaint volumes and customer vulnerability later in the year, the stakes are higher. Firms who are ready to meet this challenge and take hold of the opportunities presented will be in a good position to emerge strongly.”

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