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Feedback programmes: Three ways to be more proactive about regulatory compliance

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14th Oct 2014
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The increasingly strict regulations regarding compliance and fair treatment of customers across many industries – financial services, utilities and telcos being the most obvious examples – are great news for consumers. For organisations themselves, however, they pose a number of challenges.

How can you accurately measure compliance? How can you make sure this measurement is consistent across all your product sectors? And how do you really know if you’ve got the right procedures in place to ensure you can continuously improve the experiences you deliver – while adhering to ever-changing rules?

Use VoC as a compliance tool

Until now, customer feedback programmes have been used to meet a variety of constantly changing legislation and requirements for fair customer treatment. The problem is that these are often bespoke, manual programmes that focus on siloed areas of customer information and offer no additional business value. What’s more, the data they produce can be highly inconsistent across different product categories.

Regulatory authorities are also imposing far more stringent guidelines that go far beyond the simple box-ticking exercises imposed when customer treatment was first considered important. Standard feedback programmes simply aren’t geared up to cope with the measurement that’s needed to cater to these more complex regulatory times.

To really get a measure of how to comply with regulations, then, a more sophisticated, accurate and centralised Voice of the Customer (VoC) programme that is tightly integrated with – or, better still, an active part of – your compliance processes is needed. Such a programme can also deliver the added value of improving your operational processes, reducing your costs and prioritising areas for business change.

Be proactively compliant

Regulatory compliance is a vast subject and one which we can’t possibly cover in a single article. This article discusses how organisations can approach compliance and customer treatment in a proactive way, ensuring adherence to regulation while simultaneously delivering a positive experience to customers. The methodology can be broken down into three steps:

  • Use the creation of a VoC programme to ENSURE processes are compliant.
  • Use the tracking techniques of VoC to PROVE your actions have been compliant or identify areas of concern.
  • Use the analytics resulting from VoC to MEASURE customer satisfaction with business processes.

Across all three steps, VoC programmes can help organisations create consistency and deliver improvements. Given that the goals of compliance programmes are very similar, it is surprising how few organisations are taking advantage of the added value that VoC can deliver.

Clarify your customer journey

The establishment of a VoC programme is a targeted way of understanding how efficient and successful current customer processes are, from marketing and pre-sales to post-sales customer service.

By measuring processes at each step of the entire customer journey, you can identify areas of success and those requiring improvement. You can also deliver information back to different departments for ongoing product, process and training improvements. To ensure customers are treated fairly and consistently, you can use this evidence to establish more efficient processes, boosting customers’ overall experience by limiting the number of departments involved in resolving queries – and thus reducing your costs.

A case in point

One of Confirmit’s Financial Services customers has succeeded in doing just this, using a targeted VoC programme to ensure its customers fully understand the products they buy. As part of the post-purchase process, the organisation uses a survey to confirm the customer is clear about the product they’ve bought and what it offers them. If the result is positive, no further immediate action is needed. If the result is negative, an immediate follow up call can be made and any adjustment to or cancellation of the product can be made.

The resulting reports of all customer purchases provides proof to the regulatory body that customers have been treated fairly, sold the correct product and listened to in those cases where expectations are not met. In this case, a longer term benefit of VoC is that it may help to avoid industry-wide issues such as the misselling of financial products in the future by providing clear records of the selling process from start to finish.

Merge regulation with customer experience

Unless you have specific key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure success against, the VoC programme will fall at the first hurdle. When using VoC as a compliance tool, many KPIs will relate to the specific regulations set out by your regulatory authority.

In addition, it’s important to consider the ‘softer’ factors that need to be measured to ensure you are delivering consistent, accurate advice and service to your customers – and meeting or exceeding their expectations. These KPIs will be unique to your business and will help you to understand how you set yourself apart in the market.

In both cases, KPIs will be closely linked to defined processes within the entire journey of your customer, from pre-sales to post-purchase. And this is where compliance and customer experience become two halves of the same coin – both with the ultimate goal of ensuring positive customer treatment, whatever benchmarks that treatment is set against.

Keep pace with change – across all channels

As new customer communications channels evolve, it is increasingly hard to deliver a consistent customer experience – and to ensure all channels are compliant with regulations. Compliance is tightly related to trust, and trust in the case of customer experience is about consistency. Customers want the organisations they deal with to know who they are, and to have a similar experience every time and through every channel.

So, any VoC programme must measure experience regardless of how that experience was delivered. The key is to work with customers in the way that suits them best: if a customer prefers emails, email should be used to distribute surveys; if they use mobile banking, then they should be followed up by mobile.

This is particularly pertinent, yet particularly hard to do, when it comes to social media. The social channel has become the ideal – and very public – forum for customers to voice their dissatisfaction with products or services, but is very hard to measure and regulate. As a result, it poses a real challenge as customers increasingly seek to gain resolution to product or service problems via social forums rather than a contact centre – making it even harder to control the quality of interactions.

Fortunately, VoC programmes are now being designed to incorporate detailed social media analytics, incorporating the feedback received via social with that from other channels. What’s more, social media can be used in a positive way to provide much faster reaction to customer issues – by analysing social media forums, you can react more quickly to what your customers are telling you, demonstrating the willingness of your organisation to take control and responsibility of situations that may otherwise escalate.

Take action to add value

By its nature, a strategic VoC programme is a long term approach to customer experience. It can provide the necessary evidence, built up over a period of time, to prove that all the interactions across your entire customer base are compliant. Remember to keep a long term view - a successful programme simply won’t stand up without identifying before you begin what action you’ll take from the results you get. The biggest challenge is not bringing all of the relevant data together, but deriving value from it for long term, strategic action and business improvement.

Long term action means using the valuable insight you gather from your VoC programmes to identify where investment will have most impact on business growth and success. Whether it's enhanced staff training, adapting or developing product offerings to suit changing market needs, or investment in new channels or technology, the feedback you gather from your customers provides some of the best guidance as to where the wisest investments lie.

See regulation as a positive step

As well as providing clear insight into the experiences of all your customers on their journey through your business, your VoC programme delivers the factual evidence to support internal capabilities to meet and exceed regulatory standards. As well as a tick-box exercise, then, it provides the necessary structured approach to measuring your business performance – and avoiding hefty fines that can damage both your reputation and your bottom line in one go.

More than this, though, a well-designed programme can show what your organisation needs to do differently to allow differentiation from competitors, particularly as new entrants enter the market.

So, while the implementation of a VoC programme may have been driven by the existence of a regulator, you’ll discover that the business value you reap goes far beyond that of compliance alone.

Claire Sporton is vice president of customer experience management, at Confirmit.

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