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August 4, 2013

Q&A: Charter UK

Paul Clark, CEO at complaint management software company, Charter UK, tells Amy-Jo Crowley how companies should be handling their complaints.

By Amy-Jo Crowley

How has Charter-UK developed since its creation?

Charter UK started life as a boutique software house, long before the company was called Charter UK. Back then, the company offered a wide variety of bespoke solutions for businesses that wanted to improve their internal processes, drive greater revenue and increase customer satisfaction. We could see very quickly that our solution for collecting, collating and analysing customer feedback was something that would have universal appeal for many different businesses. That solution, which was called Charter, gained a strong following very quickly – and so we adopted the name of the platform as our company name, and Charter UK was born.

What are the typical challenges companies are faced with when it comes to handling complaints data?

Most complaints management solutions simply aren’t able to handle the vast amount of diverse data collected from across the enterprise. As a result, businesses and their customers are left with varying levels of quality when it comes to how different group companies and departments are dealing with customer complaints.

It is therefore almost impossible for these companies to manage quality and consistency across the organisation. This can have a very negative effect on customer satisfaction and retention, as customers often receive mixed messages and a vastly different experience when dealing with different parts of the same business.

From a management point of view, this disjointed approach also makes it very difficult to extract any useful business intelligence from the data that is being collected. As a result, it’s impossible to identify any key trends or to conduct an effective root cause analysis. Instead, businesses are left with a complaint logging system – rather than a complaint management platform – which offers very few benefits to the business or to its customers.

Cost is another issue that firms need to be aware of. Because frontline employees typically don’t have the right tools for the job, the complaints management process can be very expensive to manage. Our solution has actually reduced these costs by up to 70% in some cases by streamlining and standardising a firm’s complaints management processes.

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For businesses operating in regulated industries, compliance is another major challenge, as regulators across all sectors are demanding greater openness and transparency of complaints in order to ensure that firms are treating customers fairly. While some organisations may view these requirements as burdensome, forward-thinking firms are embracing the opportunity to improve their c

What was the issue between PPI claims and claim management companies?

Claim Management Companies (CMCs) basically saw PPI as a slow-moving ambulance they could chase. The truth is that PPI claims were actually very easy to make without any help from the CMCs; most firms had very simple forms that could be downloaded and completed very easily. However, CMCs saw an opportunity and went for it – and definitely swelled the number of complaints as a result. In many cases, they were trading on the fact that some firms chose to pay out on a PPI claim rather than try to defend it, which made them an easy target. Meanwhile, consumers suffered a double-whammy of being mis-sold a PPI policy in the first place, and then having to hand over part of their compensation to the CMCs that were supposed to be ‘helping’ them.

How has it been resolved?

Over the past few years, many of the UK’s largest banks have taken significant steps towards improving their complaint management processes. These organisations therefore deserve the chance to resolve any genuine complaints quickly and efficiently, safe in the knowledge that CMCs are not making this process any more difficult than it needs to be.

Even though the number of CMCs operating in this space has dropped off in recent months, I’m not sure that the situation has been fully resolved, even now. It’s more likely that a lot of these CMCs have simply moved on to something else.

How are companies, particularly healthcare and financial institutions, handling their complaints data nowadays?

Healthcare and financial services are two very different sectors. Amongst our financial services customers, we’re seeing significant progress and a strong track record of improvements when it comes to managing complaints effectively. Not only are firms in this sector much more responsive, but they have made a serious commitment to improving the customer experience, boosting satisfaction and promoting greater transparency. The result is that complaints in this sector are now being handled much more effectively in most cases.

Healthcare in the UK is a different story, as organisations operating in this sector are not held accountable to the same strict regulations that we have in financial services – and that’s a shame. The healthcare sector can learn a lot of important lessons from financial services, not only in terms of how to rebuild trust by listening and reacting to public concerns, but also by understanding how to reduce inefficiencies and identify problems much more quickly.

How could your software help to improve the NHS?

The NHS is facing a number of major problems at the moment. You have to remember that the NHS is unique because of its incredible size and complexity; the number of patient interactions on a daily basis is staggering.

The NHS has expressed its desire to be a ‘learning organisation’, yet it will be difficult to learn very much unless it is able to combine all the feedback that it’s receiving across many different channels. Otherwise, it will be impossible to identify any trends that are developing, to see where expectations are being missed, and to conduct a thorough root cause analysis that delivers actionable intelligence.

The financial services sector has faced similar issues in the past, but now has a much clearer idea of what constitutes a complaint, which is basically any expression of dissatisfaction. If the NHS were to use this same definition, and were willing to view the results of the feedback that it’s receiving from its frontline staff and patients every single day, its customer data would not only be much richer, but could also be acted upon instantly, at every level, both locally and nationally.

Can you explain what your feedback management software does?

The Charter platform is a powerful customer service solution that streamlines the complaints management process to promote a highly efficient customer-centric environment. As such, it enables businesses to implement a departmental or enterprise-wide approach to managing customer complaints and feedback.

Its core applications have been developed to support multi-channel contact capture, workflow processing and business systems integration with a robust management reporting and analysis tool. As such, it allows businesses to analyse customer complaints and feedback to stimulate business improvement initiatives, reduce costs, achieve regulatory compliance and improve customer retention by producing management information (MI) based on data gathered from very different views across the enterprise.

What other plans do you have to further develop Charter UK?

Part of our vision will be to expand the platform’s functionality, integration abilities and analytical tools in order to deliver unparalleled management information that is capable of driving and supporting real business change.

We are about to deliver the fifth generation of our complaints management solution, which goes far beyond anything that businesses have seen before.

The exciting thing about the way in which Charter UK is developing is that we now have the ability to join the dots in a way that provides a complete and consistent view of the customer experience, across every possible channel and touch-point, for an entire enterprise or group.

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