Complaint-Management Models 

123476869246157742972241292487I could not resist including this image as a basis for comparison between how most businesses might choose to deal with baseless complaints, and how regulated firms have to handle them.  In this instance, a rather spiteful, pointless grievance is dealt with using humour and sarcasm, without the triggering of a full-blown compliant process, which would ordinarily accompany any "expression of dissatisfaction".

OK, so not all of us might want to respond with perhaps this degree of acerbity, but there are clearly circumstances which would justify a response such as this inspired one from a representative of Campbells Soup's customer service department.

Unfortunately, those of us existing in the Twilight Zone of regulation do not have this kind of luxury, no matter how envious we might feel of the kinds of freedom available in other sectors.  There is a kind of honesty associated with this which is starkly absent from the kinds of processes managed by regulated firms - a recent case relating to Fiends Life is a case in point.

A long time ago, deep in the miasmal mists of time, we wrote to Fiends Life complaining about continual mis-management of their commission accounting processes and systems.  This complaint was submitted after a prolonged period of interaction, during which many promises were made and routinely broken by the product-provider.  Weeks after we wrote, we received an acknowledgement which informed us that our complaint was important to them: this we regarded as par for the course.  The letter assured us that the insurer was looking into the matter, an assurance that we did not at the time regard as especially reliable.

Today, we have received the follow-up letter.  It starts promisingly enough: "Further to our letter of 19 April 2016, we are now in a position to give you an update on the progress of our investigation into your complaint."  This was encouraging: I had not yet retired and been consigned to a care facility before the response had arrived - excitedly, I looked at the next paragraph which read:  "Presently, we are gathering the information required to investigate your complaint thoroughly.  Once this process is complete, we will be able to investigate your complaint blah blah blah..."

So, this is the letter that should never have been sent.  It tells us not only precisely nothing of any substance, but worse than that, it indicates that Fiends Life have not even begun looking into the matter.  The chronology and the format of the communications actually tells you a great deal about this provider: there is no integrity to their activity of 'complaint management', they are simply observing a kind of compliant process which nobody believes in.  Indeed, the completely unnecessary communications, whilst no doubt ticking some critical compliance box, suggest that the intention is to string matters out for so long that we will simply lose the will to exist.  I fully expect that when we do, finally, receive some kind of anodyne response, matters will have moved on and we will actually have forgotten about the original issue - and my assumption is that the insurer is counting on that fact.

Whilst we may not all wish to take leaves out of the books of Campbell Soup's customer service reps, the honesty evident in their response is conspicuously absent in this corresponding experience with Fiends Life.  This is another example of an area where regulation per se does not improve things.  If the culture is woefully aberrant, then big regulation does nothing to rectify matters as it merely replaces ethic with process.


Make sure you are familiar with our proportionate complaint-management framework.
Kevin Moss, 29/04/2016