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How Firms Should Handle Complaints During Coronavirus

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Sarah Lawrence

Sarah Lawrence

Sarah has spent over 20 years of experience in the financial services industry, including over 16 years working at the Financial Ombudsman Service. Sarah specialises in customer service and complaints handling, with extensive experience of management and mediating complaints and is dedicated to passing on her knowledge and experience to businesses to improve complaints handling, customer service and consumers’ perceptions of the industry.

Never has operational resilience been more important

60% of the UK population has suddenly been thrust into the world of home working. 6.3 million have been temporarily laid off and keyworkers are facing some of the most demanding working conditions in history.

Forced to manage complaints with a reduced workforce, firms like yours cannot pause and must continue to ensure consumer confidence.

This article explains the FCA’s new guidance on how firms should handle complaints during the coronavirus and what is needed from you in order to stay compliant.

What is still expected from you

Here are some of the key processes the Financial Conduct Authority has outlined which need to continue as normal:

  1. Consumers need to be able to submit complaints (ideally online or over the telephone)
  2. Consumers should be able to discuss their complaints
  3. You will be expected to adhere to certain timescales
  4. Your firm needs to be able to provide redress to all complainants where it is appropriate to do so
  5. You need to be able to offer a fair resolution for complaints, especially for those who are considered vulnerable – more on this in the next section.

It should be noted that the FCA has recognised that some firms may find it more difficult to meet certain requirements. In DISP 1.6. in particular, these rules have been highlighted:

  • The requirement to provide a final response to complaints within 8 weeks of receipt; and
  • A holding response explaining why the firm has been unable to provide a final response within the timeframe.

If you are struggling with the above requirements, please skip to section What to do as a firm if you’re struggling.

Who’s now considered vulnerable?

Millions of people have experienced dramatic changes to their everyday life overnight. Your firm’s sensitivity is paramount, and you should be alert to an increased number of vulnerable customers.

Unsurprisingly, the FCA has highlighted that the following circumstances are likely to exacerbate or cause vulnerability:

  • Loss of income from losing employment or being furloughed;
  • The impact of isolation on mental and physical health, and people’s ability to work and care for others; and,
  • In the case of some key workers, the impact of extremely demanding working conditions and greater exposure to the virus itself.

The FCA also expects complaints handlers to not only prioritise the above groups, but, also; micro-enterprises and small businesses, who are likely to face serious financial difficulties if their complaint is not resolved promptly and fairly.

What to do as a firm if you’re struggling

First and foremost, keep calm. No doubt you’re already taking certain steps to manage and address your non-compliance. If your firm is struggling to meet the DISP rules outlined in the FCA’s communication on the 1st May 20, then you must inform your FCA supervisor that is the case.

 If as a firm you are unable to meet the regulators current requirements in respect of complaints as a result of having your staff working from home, then the FCA have noted that you may need to move some of your homeworking staff back on-site in order to provide on-going complaint management services.   They have of course noted that this should only happen if a firm can ensure that government guidelines for social distancing can be followed.

We are recognised for our regulatory knowledge and expertise. If you would like a second opinion,  we would be happy to offer any no-obligation advice for how you can improve complaints management in your business.

Simply call us on 01908 613613.

Technology

It goes to show, some firms who have invested in their systems, controls and infrastructure, will have managed the working-from-home transition well. Those who have not, are now at a distinct disadvantage and might not be able to meet on-going regulatory expectations

At Worksmart, we have been helping firms like yours to manage complaints for many years. Our award-winning software; Caresmart, can help you manage complex case flow regardless of where your staff are working from. With its ability to capture, track and manage complaints, together with its customer communication capability, Caresmart will enable firms to manage both client expectations, regulatory obligations and will deliver the requisite MI to have comfort that your complaints are being managed effectively.

Complaints Management Software Benefits

Our innovative complaints management solution is not only cost effective but offers a huge suite of useful tools to help you deal with COVID-19.

Easily implemented for home-working, add flexibility and equip your team. While resources are thin, Caresmart; will help you to manage vulnerable customers and streamline your complaints process.

Worksmart recently won the ‘ACQ 2019 Complaints Management Solutions Provider of the Year’ award, which is testament to all the hard work that has gone into the software.

Below you can find just some of the other benefits available to you:

  • Quick and easy on-boarding as can implement within 4-8 weeks realistically for a templated solution.
  • Experience FS professionals with oodles of IT experience
  • Compliance Coverage
  • Regulatory Guidance
  • Functionality
  • Best Value
  • Product Ease of Use
  • Product Scalability
  • Secure Tier 4 Hosting Service

Read more...

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