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FOS chief tells banks not to fear complaints

  • 17/10/2013
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FOS chief tells banks not to fear complaints
Natalie Ceeney, chief executive of the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS), has told firms not to fear increased complaint figures and instead use such feedback constructively.

Speaking to an audience of bankers at the BBA conference in London, Ceeney said customer satisfaction following a complaint depended on how an organisation viewed this input.

“When I meet chief execs of banks, building societies and insurers you get a pretty good view of how good their complaint handling is by where it sits it in the organisation.

“If it’s a warehouse somewhere on the M25 with people who are head down with a list of tick box rules then I can pretty much guarantee they’ll do an appalling job of complaint handling. If it’s someone under a marketing function and the data is seen as insight, then it’s going to be handled well.”

Antonio Simoes, head of HSBC UK, said First Direct received more complaints per customer than any other brand but has by far the best reputation for customer service because it used this data in a constructive manner.

Ceeney said more complaints were not necessarily a bad thing if the organisation used the data to improve its service.

“I am far more interested in uphold rates and trends than I am in absolute complaint volumes.

“It’s actually very easy for businesses to make complaints go down, just don’t tell customers how they can complain. But the best brands solicit feedback.

“If we see complaints as feedback then firms can learn. Maybe complaints volumes will go up, and maybe that’s good. Let’s put wrongs right quickly and learn.”

FCA figures yesterday revealed Santander was the most complained about firm for mortgages in the first half of the year. Looking at all sectors, Barclays came top of the pile having been the subject of 370,733 between January and June.

Ceeney, who has headed FOS since March 2010, said banks should give staff in complaints departments more scope to solve problems easily.

“If I had one prescription for complaint handling it would be to give complaint handlers the power to be sensible human beings applying common sense.

“Of course you have to put rules and governance around it, but you have to give them discretion to be human. Empower them to be sensible and make them feel their job is putting things right, not ticking boxes in a compliance mode. Do that and you’ll get complaint handling right.”

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