With the 2018 UK Complaint Handling Awards just around the corner, CXM spoke with James Walker, the CEO of awards partner Resolver, the online complaints portal that helps consumers raise and resolve issues quickly and effectively. In our exclusive interview, he outlines best practise for dealing with customer complaints in the digital age, where customers hold more power than ever before thanks to social media platforms…
Tell us about Resolver and the idea behind the organisation
It sounds clichéd, but Resolver really was founded by consumers, for consumers.
I started Resolver after having an issue with my boiler insurance policy and finding that it was inexplicably hard to resolve my problem. I saw that submitting a complaint was a time-consuming activity, and that consumers had to do some serious research to figure out where they stood when it came to their rights.
Resolver is a single, awesome resource that provides consumers with quick and easy access to the tools and knowledge they need to raise their issues efficiently – for free.
We believe that the best way to help consumers is by educating them about their rights and working with businesses to improve their services. To this end, we try to remain impartial wherever possible and bridge the gap between consumers and businesses.
We stick to a strong ethical code – we’re always going to be free to consumers, we don’t feature adverts, we don’t sell on our users’ personal data. Overall, we aim to be a guiding force that people can trust, building better markets for both businesses and consumers. When someone complains, what do we do? We listen, and gather the details of their bad experience. We then explain what we are going to do to resolve it.
Do you think the UK has previously lacked an effective complaint handling culture?
While the various ombudsmen and regulators have all operated to the best of their capacity, the problem is that consumers faced a convoluted nightmare of differing rules, regulations, and powers that made for a highly inconsistent system of complaint handling.
Things are definitely getting better, but some industries are more focused on learning from consumers than others. The response to Resolver has been fantastic – we’ve been visited for guidance and advice by over 37 percent of UK households; had over 1.2 million cases raised in 2017; and seen the average consumer satisfaction score of our top 20 companies rise to 7.12 – up from 5.68 in 2016.
All signs that Resolver is delivering a massive improvement to the way the UK looks at complaints.
Why is complaint handling so important in the digital age?
It’s a simple fact that it’s getting a lot cheaper to keep existing customers than it is to find new ones. Firms only have a finite marketing budget, and there’s no point forking out a fortune on pulling in new customers if you’re haemorrhaging existing ones left, right, and centre.
The thing is, building a loyal base of customers previously demanded that businesses commit a certain amount of resources to customer services – difficult to do when businesses are already committed to other areas of growth. This is why efficient complaint handling is so important: businesses can commit less to customer service, build customer loyalty, and improve customer retention.
What are some of the basic skills a business requires to placate frustrated and angry customers?
It sounds so simple, but I can’t emphasise this enough – listen to your customers.
We believe that good customer service is about more than just papering over the cracks, and that complaints offer businesses a chance to make crucial improvements.
What most people want is pretty simple: we want to see that our comments have been listened too and addressed, even if we disagree with the response.
We want to feel like we’re being spoken to by a human being, not a cut-and-paste or auto-generated response. And increasingly we want our complaint addressed quickly. This speed in resolving an issue is also beneficial to the business in question.
What are some of the advances you foresee in Resolver and other digital platforms in this field?
It’s all about the data! At Resolver, we encrypt and keep our user’s data protected. We don’t sell it on or monetise it in any way. Resolver remains a free service.
But our experience with helping millions of people resolve complaints means we can use that knowledge to help businesses learn from the complaints they receive.
We can design software tailored to their individual needs that enables them to spot trends in complaints and act quickly. We can predict with increasing accuracy the complaints that can be resolved quickly and those that are likely to escalate to an ombudsman or the courts.
And we can help businesses navigate the legal and compliance requirements that come with regulation.
Speaking to businesses across a range of sectors, it’s clear from what they tell me that this will be invaluable in helping them improve the service they offer to consumers, and will make things quicker and simpler for everyone involved.
Similarly, as we make our data do more for consumers and businesses, we hope to work on automating certain sections of the complaints process. We want to make it as easy as possible for consumers to raise their issues – and as simple as possible for businesses to resolve them.