How financial institutions can build a comprehensive and scalable complaints management framework

Learn how to build a comprehensive complaints management framework that’ll improve your compliance and customer service efforts. 

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How financial institutions can build a comprehensive and scalable complaints management framework


Learn how to build a comprehensive complaints management framework that’ll improve your compliance and customer service efforts. 

How financial institutions can build a comprehensive and scalable complaints management framework

Customer complaints are unpleasant to receive — and sometimes tricky to resolve — but come part and parcel with any business. And no industry faces the brunt of them quite like the financial services industry. 

Indeed, in 2022, Canada’s Ombudsman for Banking Services and Investments (OBSI) opened 1,151 unresolved complaint cases on behalf of consumers — a six percent increase from 2021. 

The reasons behind this increase include socioeconomic stressors as well as changes to the Bank Act regulation, according to OBSI. These new regulatory conditions provide further consumer protections, which place additional pressures on federally regulated institutions. For example, Canadian banks now have a duty to deal with all complaints within 56 days of receiving them

Failing to meet these new expectations can result in non-compliance and customer dissatisfaction. So, to get the upper hand, your institution must build a comprehensive and scalable complaints management framework. 

In this article, we’ll examine the importance of good complaints management and explore six components of a watertight framework. 

Why complaints management is about more than just compliance 

Achieving regulatory compliance is important. Particularly when you consider that regulators use your complaint data to measure your service level. A lower rating will tarnish your reputation. Not to mention, escalated complaints may land you with regulatory pressures and fines

However, compliance shouldn’t be your only reason for bolstering your complaints management processes. 

It’s important to consider your customers, too. After all, the way you handle their complaints is a key determining factor of their experience. If you can deal with their issues in a transparent, timely, and effective manner, they’ll be more likely to trust and have confidence in your institution

With that in mind, let’s dive into the foundations of a comprehensive complaints management framework: 

The 6 components of a comprehensive and scalable complaints management framework 

1. Leadership alignment 

Like any change initiative, building or improving upon your complaints management framework requires strong leadership alignment. There needs to be a conscious acknowledgement of the need for change and what the change will be, as well as a commitment to making it happen. 

This requires digging into your business’s core values. Is your organization truly invested in improving its complaints management processes? And, if so, why? Do you feel it’s important for your business, brand, and customers? 

Once your leadership team is aligned on why you’re embarking on this change, you should determine how you’re going to achieve it. This means mapping out the timeframe, responsibilities, process improvements, resources, and anticipated end results. 

2. Process improvement 

Regulatory guidance encourages institutions to handle complaints transparently and in a timely, effective, and accessible manner. If you’re struggling to meet these standards, it may be a result of process or service delivery issues. 

In a complaints management review of Canada’s leading banks, the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada (FCAC) noted a number of common policy and process issues, including: 

  • Inconsistent procedures for mitigating employee bias and handling complaints objectively. 
  • Few processes for gathering feedback from customers who filed complaints. 
  • Inability to measure employee internal process and policy compliance (in regards to complaints handling).
  • Inaccessible methods for customers to report problems. 
  • Loose procedures for escalating customer complaints. Customers are often left to escalate problems themselves. 

To improve your complaints management framework, you must pinpoint and resolve these problems. This may involve establishing written guidelines for handling complaints, which detail how to talk to customers and when reimbursement is necessary. You could also improve the efficiency and scalability of existing processes with the help of technology. 

This brings us to point number three: 

3. Technology consolidation and data integration 

It can be all too easy to adopt a single complaints management application and expect it to solve all your problems. Unfortunately, there are very few process changes that can be fixed with a one-off tech purchase. Not to mention, they can often hinder your efforts and create data silos if you don’t embed them correctly. 

If your complaints information lives on one tool, which only certain customer representatives can access, this can impede your entire service approach. For instance, imagine a customer files a complaint via an online form. The next day, a representative emails them to resolve the issue, but ultimately has to direct the customer to their local branch. When the customer arrives at their branch, the staff have no knowledge of their complaint history. This is because the in-branch employees do not have access to the customer’s case data. As you can imagine, this can be frustrating for both the customer and the staff alike. 

That’s why, from a data and customer experience standpoint, the best path ahead can often be found within your current technology. Ideally, you should make the most of your existing technology investments and integrate your customer and case management data into one accessible CRM platform, such as Salesforce. This will limit the likelihood of data silos and help you to deliver more holistic services. It also has the added benefit of streamlining your regulatory reporting and internal process improvement efforts. 

4. Automated experiences 

With all your data in one place, you’re better equipped to adopt an automated complaints process. These experiences are key to ensuring your complaints management procedures are scalable

When planning your automated experiences, consider the process issues we highlighted in point two. And remember to try and find solutions using the platforms you currently use. 

Take insufficient complaint escalation processes as an example. To ensure your employees progress a case to other departments, you might automate complaints processing in a platform like Salesforce. With automated notifications and full process monitoring, you can ensure no complaint slips through the cracks. 

5. Transparency

To deliver a truly outstanding complaints management service, you’ll need to demonstrate transparency. This means taking your customer concerns seriously and making it easy for them to file a complaint. 

To help them along, publish details about the complaint avenues available to them on your website. This should contain contact details as well as information about when they might expect to hear a response. Sharing this information transparently is the best way to build trust — and, as an added bonus, it can also be used to collect positive feedback from your customers. 

6. Training your people 

Your new or revamped complaints management framework will take some getting used to. To ensure your employees understand what’s expected of them, you’ll need to provide training on: 

  • New procedures, best practices, complaints messaging and communications. 
  • Regulatory expectations, including expectations around response times. 
  • Data sharing and accessibility. 
  • New or improved tools and workflows. 

This training will get your employees up to speed quickly, but will also help to ease the typical challenges of change management. 

Lean on our financial services expertise 

Building an effective complaints management framework is essential for staying compliant. But it’s also key to delivering superior customer experiences and reducing churn. 

Through strategic alignment, as well as policy and technology improvements, you can strengthen your complaints management process in a comprehensible and scalable way. 

That being said, the process will look different for every institution. To ensure you develop a framework that garners the best results for you, you’ll need to work with internal or external experts who can help you

  • Plot a strategic roadmap to success. 
  • Design and implement digital experiences. 
  • Upskill your teams and ease the pains of change management. 

At Modes, we follow this exact approach. Working with you and your customers, we can design a tailored, scalable complaints management framework that’ll keep your regulators and customers happy. If you’d like to learn more, please get in touch with our team.

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If you have a digital project in mind, we’d love to hear about it. Let’s connect on how we can help.

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