Handling complaints is never a pleasant task. However, you can mitigate any unpleasantness, and quite possibly turn the situation around entirely when there is a well-documented complaint process in place. A formal complaint process that is effectively communicated to the client can protect both parties should issues arise.
Be sure to follow your firm’s established complaint guidelines. Please compare your existing procedures with the following steps. Complaints can be handled professionally and with the client’s best interests in mind.
That having been said, top advisors listen patiently. In fact successful advisors list listening as their top responsibility. We need to examine this facility in the context of client complaints. Many complaints get out of hand because nobody takes the time to listen. Therefore by building a process that documents the client’s issues and creates avenues for discussion you can better serve your client and help to satisfy the subject of their complaint.
1. Ensure you record all complaints
- Maintain a complaint log. This should record the client name, nature of the complaint, date received and method (letter, verbally, email, etc.). Include a copy of the complaint in the log.
- Respond quickly and professionally. Be sure to acknowledge receipt of the complaint immediately and keep a copy of the initial response in the log.
2. Make notes immediately
- You will need to document the chain of events leading to the complaint. Start to make notes and keep everything securely in the client file.
3. Notify the branch manager (where applicable)
- Discuss the nature of the complaint with your branch manager.
4. Notify your compliance department of any written complaints
- Co-ordinate responses to written complaints with your compliance department.
5. Respond to complaints in writing
- Once you have documented as much as possible, begin your response.
- Be sure to clarify any misunderstandings.
- Include any documentation that supports your response.
- Include your solution to the complaint.
6. Invite the client to discuss in person
- Be sure to invite the client in to discuss the complaint in person. Include the branch manager if the issue is not resolved prior to the meeting.
- Make sure to schedule extra service calls after the complaint has been handled, to ensure their concern is truly addressed.
- Remember service. For example, a restaurateur will often not charge you if you have had a bad dining experience and will frequently provide something more in the way of compensation. Is there something similar you can do?
7. Include your “Alternate Sources of Redress” sheet
- Make sure you have a document that describes the regulatory and corporate avenues of redress. Attach the document with your Letter of Engagement, or simply have it at the ready should a complaint find its way onto your desk.
- It may be that your firm already has a version of a complaint resolution document for distribution to clients, check with your branch manager, supervisor, or colleagues.
- You should personalize the sheet to make it easy for the client to contact the people identified.
8. Keys to turning a complaint into a compliment
- Act with speed in seeking resolution.
- Listen; and if you or your staff is at fault apologize sincerely.
- Consider a token of kindness or concern if appropriate (flowers, etc.).
- Provide a higher level of proactive service after the problem is resolved to avoid another incident.
- Be pro-active when you do have a complaint and move to resolve it quickly. When you do so you may find that because of your prompt and decisive action, you not only handle the complaint, but also turn the complaint into a compliment.