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Don’t Turn a Mistake Into a Decision

Kevin Malicki keeps financial institutions up-to-date on Governance, Risk, and Compliance (GRC) as Director of Product Management at Harland Clarke.


As you probably know, back in 2012 the CFPB began collecting consumer complaints about financial institutions and making them public in their Monthly Complaints Report.

The fairness of such a database is a legitimate concern.

But, regardless, it’s a good idea for financial institutions to reach out to their account holders BEFORE they file a complaint with the CFPB.

But how do you know which of your account holders are unhappy? And, just as importantly, what they’re unhappy about?

The CFPB’s monthly report is unlikely to provide much use here. There’s no way to validate the complaints and even if there were, national and regional trends are too broad to offer guidance with your own account holders.

Instead, here are a few tactics that financial institutions have used with more success.

One is to monitor social media. The first place your account holders are likely to air complaints is on Facebook or Twitter.

By keeping tabs of your institution on these platforms, you can respond before blowups occur.

Consider it an opportunity not just to right a wrong, but to turn a negative into a positive for your brand. You’ll get street cred for not running from the issue, and for fixing a problem you probably weren’t aware of. In short, you get the benefit of the doubt.

Another area to look at is your website. The CFPB makes it really easy to file a complaint against you on its website. You should make it just as easy on your own site.

Don’t make your account holders have to call and wade through your automated phone system. This is an outdated tactic that creates even more frustration.

It’s better to promote an email address where account holders can access your customer service department. Or, better yet, make a customer service rep available through real-time chat functionality embedded in your site.

Also, be proactive in providing a written record of who said what and when – this will come in handy if a complaint escalates later.

Posting FAQs is another way to get ahead of problems. Adding a simple “Was this helpful?” rating to each page will help gauge whether the information is indeed useful to your account holders.

These are just a few ways to turn complaints into opportunities.

The author Paulo Coelho sums it up better than I can:

“When you repeat a mistake, it’s not a mistake anymore. It’s a decision.”

The last thing you want to do is give your account holders — or the CFPB — the impression you’re turning an innocent mistake into a decision.

>>Ready to improve your institutions’ risk and compliance efforts? Click here to get the 40 question checklist, “Questions Institutions Should Ask When Assessing Data Breach Risk.

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Harland Clarke Corp. is a leading provider of best-in-class integrated payment solutions and marketing services, serving multiple industries including financial services, retail, healthcare, insurance, and telecommunications.

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