Customer is King…or is Compliance?

Delehanty Consulting Customer is King

“Any expression of dissatisfaction has to be recorded as a complaint” said the Operations Manager as we reflected on some call recordings we were listening to together.  The customer, Jane, had called to discuss as recent bill, she’d asked her question, received an answer which met her needs and she and the advisor, Lucy, were making small talk while she typed up her notes. 

Lucy finished her notes and in so doing asked Jane “Are you happy for me to close your complaint?”  Jane was confused, she hadn’t raised a complaint so why was Lucy talking about a complaint?  During their small talk, Jane had said, “I wasn’t happy when I got the bill, it just didn’t make sense”. 

Lucy explained to Jane what had triggered her to record a complaint and the requirement from their regulator.  Jane didn’t agree – it wasn’t a complaint in her view; merely a query about something that didn’t make sense.  A conversation ensued but suffice to say confusion was created, time was wasted, and the edge had been taken off the slick experience Lucy had delivered.

This is just one example of where regulations have caused a poorer experience than the company was able to give.  When I’m redesigning customer journeys with my client’s teams, many more, sometimes perceived, regulatory limitations come to light particularly when considering the feasibility of new transformational ideas.

Of course, no regulator sets out to make the customer experience worse, it’s an unintended consequence or interpretation of the regulation by the firm.  Further, organisations can be so risk averse to the consequences of a licence breach (fines and reputation impact not to mention resources to assist an investigation) that they often divert more resources to pro-actively complying with regulations than they do to pro-actively improving their customer’s experiences.

So, is customer really king? Or is compliance?

The good news is you don’t have to choose but the bad news is customer needs and expectations will almost always differ to the standards set by regulators so you can’t be only just compliant and expect to give your customers experiences which are memorable for all the right reasons.

So why shoot for the regulations when, in many instances, customer needs and expectations exceed them? 

By developing a deep understanding the needs and expectations of your customers and striving to meet or exceed them, you get into the “wow” experiences which lead to loyal and advocating customers and ultimately the growth your shareholders expect.

But creating “wow” experiences aren’t always borne from the latest and greatest features or big technology investments. They can be created from fixing some brilliant basics such as accurate bills every time for utilities customers and effective support in times of need.

By focusing on some of these brilliant basics not only is your organisation wowing customers who have come to expect less, it’s meeting its licence/regulatory conditions while driving down it’s Cost to Serve.

While the Financial Conduct Authority stopped short of saying “apply Customer Experience best practices to everything you do”, see below how the main pillars of their “Guidance for firms on the fair treatment of vulnerable customers” compares to core CX practices.

FCA guidanceCustomer Experience practice
Understanding customers’ needsNeeds-based Personas: A suite of one-page personas developed from customer insights gathered through qualitative and quantitative customer research.
Skills and capabilityInclusive Service Design’s collaboration: Bringing together knowledgeable experts from across the business customers’ needs are met, in part, by ensuring colleagues readiness needs are met while deepening understanding of vulnerable customers.
Taking practical actionInclusive Service Design: The tried and tested approach to delivering services which meet the needs of as many people as possible without the need for dedicated support at any stage throughout the customer journey.
Monitoring & evaluationListening and Metrics: Establishing (as needed), gathering, and analysing customer & colleague feedback from a breadth of points in the customer journey into a dashboard to measure and track the experience.

How does this work in practice?

Diligently following the proven practices of Customer Experience sees projects achieve near full compliancy for the regulations in scope of that improvement.  An essential element of this is giving the appropriate member of the Regulation/Compliance Team a central role in the Project Team (a combination of customer facing and non-customer facing people hand-selected for their knowledge) and their relevant leader a seat in the Steering Group.

However, where this approach has been most successful is where the Regulation/Compliance Team member is open to revisiting the wording and interpretation of regulations and actively seeking clarification from the regulator where doubt exists. Real examples enrich the understanding of everyone involved including our colleagues at the regulators meaning the clarification often falls in the favour of the experience improvement we’re looking to implement when shared in the context of the journey and its pain points.

On 2-3 occasions, the Regulation/Compliance Team member has hosted their primary contact at the regulator to co-design solutions and see first-hand where wording in regulation/other guidance hampers progress.  The benefits of this approach are the team receive immediate clarification and the regulator see the challenges firms face in applying the regulations.

But my top tip to you…before embarking on or expediting your Customer Experience focus, take the time to ensure you can govern it well.  Customer Experience practices are repeatable, and momentum and pace grows quickly due to the high energy and satisfying nature of quick, effective and engaging deliveries.  Put simply, everyone thinks they can do it having attended one or two inclusive design workshops! Therefore, one of your biggest challenges will be governing the approach to maintain it’s integrity which is essential to ensuring every delivery meets customer needs, is compliant and reduces costs.