Critical insight for developing a fair and timely dispute resolution procedure in line with RG271 legislation

Independent research from in-depth interviews with vulnerable customers of several Australian banks and financial institutions has found gaps in “closed” complaint cases.

The CSBA research found that while specialist care teams considered a case “closed” following a “resolution”, customers were often waiting on further follow up, which exacerbated their distress.

CX director of finance at CSBA, Sam Monteath, explained that vulnerable customers were often confused who to contact and had to go through various departments, channels and systems to resolve an issue.

They were unclear about the relationships between associated organisations and how government departments such as CentreLink and the ATO were involved. The lack of follow up from the financial institution and their own incapability to navigate complex processes led to lengthy delays and frustration.

Some even lodged formal complaints as a last-ditch effort to get resolution or clarity after having tried and failed via other means.

“Vulnerability research is a critical starting point for financial institutions looking to develop an effective Voice of Customer solution to meet requirements under RG271,” said Ms Monteath.

“If you want to identify and articulate specific customer behaviours; if you want to validate your service model and the service quality of team members; if you want to know how you currently treat your vulnerable customers; you need to hear from these customers directly.”

Ms Monteath said vulnerability research provided a reality check – by comparing the feedback of customers to the conduct of the specialist care team.

“But don’t expect them to engage using an online survey,” she said.

“Customers with complex issues are usually highly stressed and will best respond to personal approaches that give them the freedom to discuss intimate details.”

“Interestingly, most vulnerable participants in the study welcomed the opportunity to share their experiences, even when it meant re-living harrowing circumstances.”

The research, which included interviews of up to 60-minutes with customers who had a recently closed complaint case with the specialist care team, covered a mix of cases, targeting different vulnerabilities, and representing a range of life stages, events and circumstances. Respondents came from across Australia and represented a broad range of age, gender and other important demographics.

Learning from vulnerability research

  • A tailored, qualitative research solution with a high touch personal approach provides richness of insights and higher rate of participation. In many cases, customers were grateful for the opportunity to share their experience.
  • The recruitment of participants is critical to the success of the research program. A collaborative approach is required to identify appropriate customers and facilitate communication.
  • Highly experienced and sensitive interviewers are skilled in drawing out key information that allow respondents the freedom to discuss often emotional details which they experienced or are still experiencing. A strict adherence to privacy requirements and a high level of transparency is paramount.
  • Organisational structure and culture impact greatly on a vulnerable customer’s experience. For example, Proactive vs Reactive or Supportive vs Judgemental.

Ms Monteath: “Vulnerability is growing, and the impact of COVID-19 means that we’re seeing more vulnerable people reaching out for help. Taking the time to understand their experience and implement measures that improve it, not only fulfils a regulatory requirement. It empowers organisations to “close the loop” on dispute resolution processes which will benefit all customers, whether they are vulnerable or not.”

5 steps to creating better experiences for vulnerable customers

  1. Know where you’re at – Establish a baseline through independent assessment of the customer experience from an internal and external perspective.
  2. Use the learnings to identify strengths and weaknesses – These will allow you to pinpoint opportunities to simplify processes, remove barriers, reduce stress and create a positive experience.
  3. Establish an organisation-wide strategy – Use the insights from your research to develop a comprehensive strategy.
  4. Train your frontline staff – Build your teams so they can identify vulnerable customers and escalate cases to specialist crisis teams.
  5. Design services with vulnerable customers in mind – If you can meet the needs of the most vulnerable, the experience of all customers will no doubt improve.

About CSBA – The Customer Experience Experts

For more than two decades, CSBA has helped organisations of all shapes and sizes create better customer experiences through independent, specialised CX strategy, research, insights, quality assurance and training.

CSBA now works with more than 150 clients across 15 different industries, including specialised CX programs for the local government, higher education, superannuation, energy and water sectors.

Want to explore how CSBA can help you provide your customers with better experiences?