Turning complainants to customers

Insurance advisers who fail to deal successfully with complaints not only jeopardise referral business, they are also ignoring important feedback on how to improve their operations.

Thursday, September 22nd 2011, 6:47AM

by Benn Bathgate

The Insurance & Savings Ombudsman (ISO) is launching a series of workshops on complaints handling, and for ISO legal and financial services manager Virginia Douglas, they will provide valuable information for advisers.

"There have been elements of complaints that have involved advisers, so it's not as though we're not aware of the pressures and some of the issues advisers might face," she said.

"When people buy insurance through an agent, whether that person calls themselves a broker or a financial adviser, then there may be issues that the person thinks are more related to the sales process than the product."

Douglas said the workshops will address the sorts of problems advisers and small advisory businesses can face dealing with complaints and stressed the importance of handling such complaints well.

"You talk to any adviser business and the majority of their new business will come through current customer referrals, so everybody knows the importance of your brand in the community."

She said dealing with a customer complaint successfully can actually improve your standing with the customer in question.

She also acknowledged one of the unique challenges facing the sole operator.

"Most advisers are small businesses or sole operators so there are slightly different things - how do you cope with a complaint that's about you that's made to you? You're the internal review process, so we do talk to small adviser businesses about those sorts of problems as part of our workshop as well."

Douglas said the ISO originally held a number of workshops on the issue in 2010, and were revisiting it in the wake of new regulations coming into force. She also said attendees would be able to benefit from the ISO's 16 years of handling complaints.

"The two key messages in our workshops are how to retain relationships, or better the relationship through that process, and also how to frame the complaint as feedback internally. They're the two practical things you can get out of a complaint."

Benn Bathgate is a business reporter for ASSET and Good Returns, email story ideas to benn@goodreturns.co.nz

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