Customer Complaints Outsourcing

With incredible regulatory scrutiny and significant consequences if badly managed, many businesses are reluctant to outsource their complaints management. Is this the right approach?

The key to overall success is finding a partner that shares common values and ethos with your business, whose management you can trust and work with, where the outsourcer will positively enhance your brand and reputation.

At a point where the customer experience is already challenged and significant consequences could result if badly managed (both reputational and financial) – especially given the regulatory oversight in this area – I’m sure we all agree that complaints need to be resolved quickly, thoroughly, fairly and professionally.

It is therefore, essential for the complaints department to have robust systems and processes, highly skilled agents, clear authority, strong management and insightful reporting.

With so much at stake, can an outsource partner be trusted to manage complaints on your behalf? Initial feelings from most key stakeholders are that it’s ‘too high risk’. This is a very typical response.

Of course, in order to truly weigh up this question, some careful and honest consideration of internal capabilities must be undertaken – taking into account current performance within complaint league tables – whilst having a clear understanding of outsourcer capabilities for comparison.

I have heard many different reasons why companies decide to explore the option of outsourcing elements of their complaint handling:

  • Internal systems are less than ideal – with restrictions on change requests meaning it may be some time before improvements can be made;
  • Processes do not have sufficient controls – resulting in ‘black holes’ and crucial deadlines or next actions being missed;
  • Audit trails are incomplete – increasing risk of repercussions from regulators;
  • Insufficient skilled and experienced staff –as a consequence of either significant growth in complaint volumes or high attrition;
  • Limited reporting capabilities – leading to limited oversight and insufficient root cause / trend analysis in addition to difficulties managing productivity.

  • Where such challenges exist internally, partnering with a specialist outsourcer – one that has the scale and focus required to invest heavily in developing systems and training programmes specific to complaint management – could demonstrably reduce overall risk.

    Of course, such internal challenges will not resonate with everyone. Many businesses have excellent complaint handling departments and may only consider outsourcing as a means of maintaining high standards during peak periods, through overflow arrangements, or simply to reduce costs.

    Whatever the reason for considering outsourcing, the key to overall success is finding a partner that shares common values and ethos with your business, whose management you can trust and work with, where the outsourcer will positively enhance your brand and reputation. Partnering with a company that has a proven track record and strong client references will further reduce risk.

    Ultimately, outsourcing complaint management will always be ‘too high risk’ for some. There is no right or wrong; it’s a highly subjective topic.

    So, would you outsource your complaints department?

    At Sigma we have over 100 highly experienced Complaint Handlers working on behalf of a number of our clients including several well-known household brands. Working a range of complaints from Expressions of Dissatisfaction through to Ombudsman and Executive complaints, our Complaint Handlers are client dedicated, enabling greater knowledge depth and a strong cultural alignment.

    We have also developed our own in-house complaints management system as an optional overlay to client systems. Our system provides structure to complaint handling and ensures the right action is taken at the right time, in line with regulatory and client agreed timescales; delivers management information and reporting, which helps root cause analysis, performance management and benchmarking; and can also be linked to client systems to drive further efficiencies.

    Gary Gilburd
    Chief Executive Officer
    The Sigma Financial Group Ltd
    Mob: 07715 351 136

    Redditch Office
    Grosvenor House
    Prospect Hill
    B97 4DL

    Birmingham Office
    46 The Priory Queensway
    B4 7LR