In Focus: Profitable advice business  

How you respond to complaints truly sets your business apart

Neil Dethick

Neil Dethick

All advice businesses want to help their clients achieve their financial goals, and so it’s never ideal to learn a client is unsatisfied with the outcome of your service. 

In reality, the occasional complaint doesn’t have to mean the end of the world.

When dealing with negative outcomes, how you respond truly sets your business apart.

And with the right mindset, you can reframe it as an opportunity to build your reputation as a business that goes the extra mile for its clients – and strengthen your client-adviser relationships.

So, how can you approach complaints in a way that’s constructive for both parties?

First and foremost, if a client feels they’ve had a less than positive outcome, it’s your responsibility to help them navigate what comes next.

Be sure to communicate clearly, listen to their concerns and conduct an internal review into whether redress is appropriate as per the Financial Conduct Authority's dispute resolution rules. 

In the early stages, you have the opportunity to get out in front of the issue and resolve it without the involvement of the Financial Ombudsman Service – and so it’s key you move quickly, compassionately and in good faith.

Equally, you should explain the ins and outs of your complaints procedure and give the client details of all options available to them.

Transparency is vital: the more information you can provide, the quicker the dispute can be resolved.

But that’s not all. You’ll need to future-proof your service to avoid similar misjudgements down the line. And that’s where three rules come in:

1. Look back

As obvious as it seems, your first port of call is to confirm for certain what caused the detrimental turn of events for your customer.

For example, was your advice unsuitable due to one or more factors not being properly assessed during discovery?

Or perhaps inefficient processes hampered your ability to learn all you can about the client? 

Was it an issue with the way your service was conducted, or did the client misunderstand the implications of your recommendation? 

Whatever it is, you’ll need to take a forensic lens to the case and locate where along the path the problem arose.

2. Look around

At the same time, it’s critical to widen your scope to ensure this negative outcome is not the start of a pattern.

You’ll want to look at comparable cases, both ongoing and from the recent past, and identify any underlying trends that could lead to similarly unsatisfactory results.

As soon as you’ve identified any concerns, take proactive action to prevent other customers from being impacted. After all, if this is the tip of the iceberg, you can’t afford to wait idly for more complaints to arrive – now’s the time to correct the course.