Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthFebruary 28, 2018


Accountancy software firm Sage, in partnership with Trustpilot, have been named winners in the Utilising Customer Reviews category of the 2018 UK Complaint Handling Awards.

The B2B company told judges of their customer reviews process, in which every customer who leaves a negative Trustpilot Trustscore review is contacted directly within 24 hours, and arrangements made to resolve the issue.

Sage beat off competition in this category from Lanes Group and WoolOvers in partnership with Feefo.

Speaking of the process and its success, a Sage spokesperson said:

“The vision was to provide customers with the means to convey authentic feedback with one team at Sage that would handle all reviews feedback across various Sage products, with a single process for handling reviews.

The Sage Trustpilot customer reviews programme has seen Sage establish an industry-leading approach to collecting, managing and using insight from its customer reviews. The company’s Trustpilot TrustScore has increased to 9.7/10, one of the highest of any brand using the Trustpilot platform.”

Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthFebruary 28, 2018


Uniting complaints teams from across their various departments has led to huge improvements for United Utilities, whose achievement has been celebrated at the 2018 UK Complaint Handling Awards.

The UK’s largest listed water company, United Utilities was unhappy with how complaints were handled and the length of time it took on average to deal with problems highlighted by customers.

In 2016 the firm founded its Service Recovery Team, whose aim was to transform the complaint handling process to ensure problems were dealt with in a much faster timeframe – as well as deal with issues before they caused customers to complain.

Instead of four separate teams dealing with complaints, the Service Recovery Team brought them together as one body before introducing a new set of visible key performance indicators and targets, to be reviewed daily.

Further coaching was offered to help team staff deal with challenging customers, and the firm even set a budget for the purchase of cards, flowers, and chocolates for when apologies to customers is an appropriate response.

Meanwhile, the proactive identifying of problems through recording initial customer calls and calling them back to offer help has reduced overall complaints.

Texting of customers when incidents arise is another new practise that prompted judges to award United Utilities Gold in the Pro-active Complaint Handling – Utilities category. Silver in the category was awarded to South West Water.

Following this achievement, United Utilities was then awarded the title of Team of the Year – Utilities, Housing &Trains.

A United Utilities spokesperson said:

“Recognising where we have done a great job for the customer is important for team morale and motivation. Team managers are encouraged to provide treats, such as a bottle of wine when an individual agent gets a thank you from a customer. Thank you letters have now become part of our daily post and our teams have been sent vouchers and chocolates by happy customers.”

Speaking of the new moniker for the group dedicated to warding off complaints, the spokesperson added:

“The name says it all – we are no longer complaint handlers but are proud to be empowered to do the right thing and recover the service and trust of our customers. The name gives the team a sense of pride and their results speak for themselves.”

Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthFebruary 28, 2018


Identifying problems with customer complaints and allowing improved communication through digital means such as a mobile app has led to major success for train firm CrossCountry at the 2018 UK Complaint Handling Awards.

The company, which operates the UK’s longest direct rail line service from Aberdeen to Cornwall, entered this year’s awards by outlining the results of sweeping changes that followed a customer relations review which identified huge problems for the operator.

Average response times for complaints were double the targets suggested by regulators, with an average response for delay claims standing at 146 days.

In response to the highlighted issues, CrossCountry launched its Customer Relations Transformation Project. A focus was placed on digital means of better dealing with customer concerns, and a dedicated social media team was established, which has since grown from two to nine staff, and which are able to deal with customer complaints much faster than through traditional methods.

Improvements were made to CrossCountry’s mobile app to push customers towards the social media team and away from the website route of complaining.

Meanwhile, the digital revamp allows for improved data collection, which can highlight problems before they become a major issue for the firm. This success led to UK Complaint Handling Award judges naming CrossCounty as Gold winners in the Best Digital category.

Explaining the difference the project made to the business, and how they are now even inspiring rivals, a CrossCountry spokesperson said:

“Our scores were so compelling that the regulator (the ORR) made an unprecedented visit to CrossCountry, in order to discover how we achieved such positive results. Their findings are forming part of a best practice document that will be used to encourage and guide other operators.

The improved quality is also evidenced by the 94% reduction in the number of appeals from 122 in 2013 to only seven in 2017, which is the lowest level within the industry. The high quality of complaint handling delivered is further evidenced by a host of positive complainant testimonials.”

Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthFebruary 27, 2018


A project by Midlands utility firm Severn Trent Water to reduce complaints has caused a big splash at the 2018 UK Complaint Handling Awards.

The company told judges at the recent event in London about their Customer Journey Improvement initiative, which has led to a dramatic fall in complaints and has reinvigorated the delivery of Customer Experience (CX) for the eight million or so users who rely on Severn Trent’s services.

Judges were told of the importance of quality CX for the firm, as it is regulated by the Consumer Council for Water, meaning they are in direct competition with 17 other water companies.

Severn Trent’s target was to reduce complaints by 20 percent, and by last October they had beat that target with a reduction figure of 34 percent.

A company spokesperson explained:

“This project focused on complaint volume from our retail leg of the company, which include billing, metering and credit management complaints. Another major attention area was to improve our service incentive mechanism (SIM) score – a review completed quarterly by the Water Services Regulation Authority (OFWAT) to measure our customer service via customer engagement. Therefore, direct engagement with our customers and their resultant feedback has formed an integral driver for this project. 

This project has led to a new communicative structure that involves all stakeholders that have an input to the improvement of customer journey. To enable effective engagement and collaboration between stakeholders, we have a monthly customer experience CoP, two complaint loop cells a month, monthly team meetings, and weekly team communication cells and buzz meetings.”

The impressive presentation led to judges awarding Severn Trent the Gold award in the Best Utilities category, in which they were up against Lanes Group, Thames Water, United Utilities, South West Water, and Welsh Water .

United Utilities were awarded the Silver prize in this hotly-contested category.

Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthFebruary 27, 2018


An overhaul of how complaints are dealt with has earned mobile provider Giffgaff a UK Complaint Handling Award along with the firm’s outsourced contact centre provider Firstsource.

The companies were finalists in the Best Personal Entertainment & Telecoms category, where they faced stiff competition from EE and BT Business and Public Sector Complaints.

In their presentation to judges at the gala awards event in London this month, Giffgaff and Firstsource delegates discussed a “game changing strategy” that transformed how the complaints team communicated with the wider frontline staff.

New techniques introduced included a two-way feedback system to help “nip complaints in the bud” before they were categorised as such.

A Giffgaff/Firstsource spokesperson said of the changes:

“It’s a best-practise approach that’s clearly worked. In a recent survey, 100 percent of frontline staff agreed that the complaint team is excellent at collaborating with hem, with this result inevitably contributing to the new record low that Giffgaff is now witnessing in its complaint volumes and Ombudsman referrals.”

Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthFebruary 27, 2018


Thomas Cook are used to taking customers on journeys to holiday destinations across the globe, so when the firm embarked on a “transformation journey to deliver a Centre of Excellence for complaint handling”, they knew exactly how to go about it.

That delivery has now won the travel giants a UK Complaint Handling Award, which they collected at the recent gala event in London’s Park Plaza Riverbank hotel.

The company entered the Best Hospitality/Leisure/Transport & Travel category and gave a presentation on how an average complaint handling time of 48 days, and low First Contact Resolution (FCR) and Customer Experience Scores of 35 percent, prompted an “end-to-end” overhaul in attitudes to complaint handling.

Over a period of 18 months, complaint handling was revamped within Thomas Cook, to the point where it is now “embedded in the DNA” of the firm.

A spokesperson explained:

“The entire function was transformed, ensuring customers are at the heart of decisions. We used customer and colleague feedback from focus groups to deliver a three-month programme of training with development of evidence and empowerment toolkits to support FCR and speedier resolution.”

The initiative has since led to FCR scores rising to 52 percent, and CX scores as high as 90 percent, while complaint resolution costs have been reduced by 15 percent.

Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthFebruary 27, 2018


HSBC is one of the most reliable names in UK banking, and with two new UK Complaint Handling Awards in their trophy cabinet, the high street fixture is on its way to a very successful 2018.

The bank won Gold in the Best Finance and Insurance category at the gala event, which was held recently in London’s exclusive Park Plaza Riverbank.

Meanwhile, the bank’s Mortgages arm won in the Product & Service Improvement – Improving Customer Experience category, with Aegon UK emerging as Silver winners.

Judges enjoyed a detailed presentation from HSBC staff about the bank’s decision to unite complaint handlers in a new ‘Service Recover Team’ to “create a function focused on handing complaints with the best service for every unhappy customer and enabling the bank to use complaints and feedback to properly learn and fix problems so they don’t happen again”.

An HSBC spokesperson said of the initiative:

“In a short period of time we’ve seen massive improvements to the speed and quality of complaint handling, going from middle of the pack to the top of internal and external measures, with best in class outcomes from the Financial Ombudsman Service.

Our new insight and root cause analytics has enabled HSBC to understand and fix long-standing problems. Our costs and resources have dropped with increased efficiency; and complaints ‘residual risk’ has been downgraded from very high, to high, and then to medium for the first time ever.”

Meanwhile, HSBC Mortgages staff told judges how before the new team was created in 2016, one-in-three people taking out a mortgage submitted a complaint. The firm was candid in how the process was failing customers.

A Mortgages spokesperson explained:

“We found that 73 percent of mortgage complaints arose in the application and processing of a new mortgage. Contextualising our complaints data with mortgage sales volumes led us to the true level of dissatisfaction and the realisation that our mortgage experience was incredibly poor. Customers were getting the right product in the end, but the journey was terrible and customers were routinely complaining that they felt ‘in the dark’ about what was happening.”

After working “relentlessly” through 2016 and 2017, mortgage complaints fell by 40 percent, amounting to 15,000 fewer complaints per year.

Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthFebruary 26, 2018


It’s been another great start to the year for one of the stalwarts of British retail, The Co-Op, which won two titles at the 2018 UK Complaint Handling Awards.

Following Co-Op Food winning the Dispute Resolution Professional title at the 2017 event, the firm was represented again at this year’s bash in London’s Park Plaza Riverbank venue, with successful entries in the Best Contact Centre and Product Service Improvement – Transforming Customer Care categories.

The story of how Head of Customer Services, Claire Carroll, took over two under-performing Co-Op call centres in 2015 and transformed them into a major success story has been well documented, and in 2016/17, this successful strategy was expanded to improve standards on a wider basis.

Among the initiatives that impressed judges in both categories this year this year was a bespoke programme of resilience training to help staff morale cope in the face of difficult conversations with customers, and the introduction of goodwill gestures for complainants who are Co-Op members.

As a result of this, 35 percent of non-member complainants joined as members as part of the resolution of their complaint.

A Co-Op spokesperson explained:

“Our approach has been joined up from the start, with a strategy that clearly calls out the value opportunity for insight and quantifies the benefits to the business of great customer service. As a result of relentlessly following these two opportunities, we have now positioned the contact centre as a strategic asset which helps retain thousands of valuable customers who are at risk and shapes the in-store offer to attract and retain millions more.”

Meanwhile, hot on the heels of Co-Op in both categories was double Silver winners CrossCountry.

Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthFebruary 26, 2018


Virgin Money tell customers they are “building a better kind of bank”, and that claim has been given hefty clout thanks to an amazing day of recognition at the 2018 UK Complaint Handling Awards.

The firm won a spectacular five awards at the event in London’s Park Plaza Riverbank hotel, including one of the most important plaudits of the day, Overall Best Team.

This award followed Virgin Money being named Gold winners in four categories: Best Banking and Investment, Most Improved Complaint Handling, Pro-active Complaint Handling, and Team – Financial Services.

In the Best Banking and Investment category, which saw Aegon UK clinch the Silver award, Virgin Money reps gave a thorough presentation to judges, outlining a complete overhaul of their complaint handling process.

They created a “seamless end-to-end customer journey” for complaints, along with a new complaint resolution framework that brings together functions from across the firm (from legal to IT) under an agreed set of targets.

Staff were also encouraged to use their discretion to “wow” customers. Training initiatives for staff helped deliver the hugely successful initiative, and a spokesperson said:

“This ambitious, far reaching transformation programme has not only transformed the complaints journey customer experience, but it has seen engagement across the team increase.

Consequently, we’re not only making customers love us (with record satisfaction scores) but are turning them into ‘lifelong friends’, with advocacy reaching its highest level to date and a double-digit growth in customers.”

This stone-cold commitment to transforming the entire complaint handling process also earned Virgin Money their Gold awards in the other categories, leaving CitySprint to collect the Silver award for Most Improved Complaint Handling, and Intelenet Global Services in both the Pro-active Complaint Handling and Team – Financial Services categories.


In the Overall Best Team category, Silver was awarded to United Utilities, while BT Business and Public Sector Complaints claimed Bronze.

Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthFebruary 26, 2018


Financial services specialists NewDay claimed the Overall Winner title at the 2018 UK Complaint Handling Awards thanks to a ground-breaking complaints model that was successfully adopted by staff and led to a whopping 20 percent reduction in handling times.

The ‘NewDay Way’ plan was outlined to judges in the Managing Your People category, and the success of the initiative led to the company being awarded the Gold title, while Silver was presented to BT Business and Public Sector Complaints.

NewDay’s project consists of five “core tools” to improve the complaint handling process. These are Standard Work (introducing standard ways of working); Visual Management (visuals driving changes to improve); Communication Cells (regular “huddles” celebrating success or voicing concerns); Creative Problem Solving (a structure for complaint resolution); and Work Place Audit (system checks to ensure the process is working).

Along with the reduction in complaint handling times, the NewDay Way led to a reduction of pipeline complaints to the lowest ever recorded post implementation, and a reduction of FOS referral rate to below the industry average.

A company spokesperson said of the initiative:

“Our drive to continually improve, together with the NewDay way of working positively impacted every customer and colleague interaction can only be described as an exceptional change in our culture that we are extremely proud of.

“Following our success story in complaints, the model has been introduced business wide as we strive to deliver on NewDay’s commitment to our customers.”

The Silver Winner in the Overall Winner category was Virgin Money, while United Utilities got the Bronze.

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