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Complaint Management System Requirements: A Step-By-Step Checklist for Successful Implementation


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Complaint Management System Requirements: A Step-By-Step Checklist for Successful Implementation

8 May 2024

Adam Dance
Man looking at tablet from desktop workstation

It doesn't matter how great your product or service is. Or the strength of your commitment to standout customer experiences. To paraphrase the immortal words of Jane Austen: "It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a customer-facing business must eventually deal with complaints."

But if unhappy customers are as much a part of doing business as, say, taxes, how you deal with them is make or break. In a 2023 customer study, 83% of respondents said they're more loyal to brands that resolve complaints quickly and efficiently.

More to the point, that same study found businesses underestimate the frequency of subpar customer experiences by around 38%. This means even small changes to your complaint-handling procedures can have a substantial impact on how your clients perceive you.

With the right complaint management software in place, you can streamline the process, and be more agile and responsive than ever before. But what does "right" look like? And, more importantly, what are the key steps you should take to successfully integrate a complaint management system into your business?

Here's an in-depth look at complaint management system best practices for implementation.

Step 1: Understand Your Complaint Management System Requirements

A common approach to complaint management system implementation is to bolt-on complaint-handling functionality to software that's already in use within the organisation, such as a customer relationship management (CRM) software.

This can seem like a smart way to keep costs down, minimise implementation time and flatten the learning curve for end-users. But, in a regulated industry like financial services, which has very specific complaint management software requirements, it can backfire.

All-in-one complaint management solutions or bolt-ons are designed to appeal to as many businesses in as many industries as possible. So, while they often have a breadth of functionality, they're not equipped to deal with financial services-specific challenges. They can't help you make sure your complaint management process complies with the Financial Conduct Authority's Consumer Duty, or the Australian Securities and Investments Commission's Regulatory Guide 271, for instance.

The risk is that staff will have to find workarounds for run-of-the-mill tasks. Complaint management software is supposed to make your life easier, so this defeats the purpose. If you're constantly fighting the software because it can't do what you need it to, the process will become more inefficient and your overhead will increase.


What To Look for in Complaint Management Software

Your complaint management software requirements depend on your firm's specific circumstances—size, sector, the jurisdictions where you operate—all these matter. But, for it to be suitable for financial service organisations, a complaint management system should include these features at a minimum:

1. Compliant Automations

Alongside time-saving capabilities such as pre-filled templates and address verification, good complaint management solutions should have compliance baked in. What must your process look like to comply with the appropriate legislation and industry standards? How do you handle complaints from vulnerable customers? By when must you send a response? What should the response say?

Aside from ensuring compliance, this workflow-driven approach also speeds up response times. Because the case handler is guided every step of the way, they don't have to keep referring back to a supervisor.

2. Comprehensive Reporting

Regulators increasingly expect compliance to be an integral part of firms' culture. Speaking at an event in November 2023, the Financial Conduct Authority's Director of Cross Cutting Policy and Strategy Nisha Arora observed that Consumer Duty isn’t just: "a compliance exercise but creates a shift in culture throughout firms. And the shift has to endure. This means that you need to make sure you’re assessing, testing, understanding and evidencing the outcomes your customers are receiving–on an ongoing basis."

Australian regulators are similarly focussed. A 2019 Financial Services Royal Commission report observed that "culture can drive or discourage misconduct" and recommended a more proactive approach, including regular assessments.

With this in mind, your complaint handling software should provide real-time insights into your complaint handling performance, including what's in your pipeline, average resolution times and outcomes, as well as the steps you've taken to address the root causes of complaints.

3. Omnichannel Support

Nothing tests an already frustrated customer's patience than having to fill out a lengthy online form when they'd rather pick up the phone. Or, making them listen to five minutes of hold music while wondering why they couldn't just email or chat.

The flipside is that, if complaints are coming through from several different channels, there's a risk some of them might fall through the cracks or receive differing levels of service.

Good complaint management software pulls all your complaints data together into a single unified view so customers can get in touch using their preferred channel. And your staff will have complete visibility, enabling them to give every complaint the same level of attention, regardless of whether it's made through email, phone, chat, online form or social media.


What To Look for in a Complaint Management Software Vendor

As well as specific system functionality, your vendor's expertise also makes a world of difference, particularly when it comes to staying on top of regulatory changes. While vendors of generic complaint management solutions can help you reconfigure your workflows in line with new requirements, it's up to you to interpret the rules and work out what needs to change.

By contrast, when you use specialised complaint handling software, you get the benefit of expert advice and support. The vendor can help you interpret the new rules and implement them in a way that is efficient and reduces the risk of falling foul of the regulator.

It's also a good idea to consider your chosen vendor's long-term plans. Are they cloud-ready? Do they have a clear product roadmap? And how receptive are they to feature requests and other customer feedback?

Complaint handling software is a significant investment, so it's important to make sure you work with a vendor that actively listens and is able to adapt to your needs as they change over time.

Step 2: Choose an Internal Project Owner

While choosing the right complaint management software (and vendor) is half the battle, successful implementation also requires careful planning. This will go much more smoothly if there's someone in charge.

Good complaint management software vendors will assign a dedicated project manager to oversee the process. But, because several stakeholders from across the business will need to get involved and collaborate, it's also a good idea to put somebody from within your firm in charge of the project so they can coordinate.

Choosing an internal stakeholder to take ownership of the project creates accountability. If somebody is responsible for keeping everyone on task and seeing things through, they'll make sure there are all the necessary resources in place.

Communication is also more efficient if there's a single point of contact with the vendor. There's less risk of things getting stuck or lost in translation. And a lot of tasks can overlap, instead of happening consecutively, which speeds up the rollout.

Step 3: Set Your Priorities

One of the biggest benefits of working with a specialised vendor is that, once the initial due diligence is complete, you can proceed with minimal involvement from your IT department.

Financial services-specific complaint management software requires less customisation. You'll also have dedicated implementation support from experienced consultants who have worked on similar projects with similar firms many times before.

That said, to make the most of your investment you'll still need a clear idea of what you want to get out of it. Some questions worth thinking about include:

  • What does your current complaint management process look like?

  • What are you hoping to achieve by implementing a new complaint management system?

  • Which rules and regulations apply to your business? And, if you operate in multiple jurisdictions, are you looking to take a phased approach to implementation, or would you prefer to deploy the new system in one go in every location where you operate?

  • Do you want to import your current complaints data? And, if so, who in your organisation owns that data, and where is it stored?

Knowing the answers to these questions will simplify the software-configuration process, and make it easier to measure success (and, so, your return on investment).


of respondents said they're more loyal to brands that resolve complaints quickly and efficiently.

Step 4: Get End-Users Involved (as Early as Possible)

At the end of the day, the single biggest indicator of a complaint management system implementation's success is user adoption.

Are your case handlers comfortable using the new system? Do they feel it's an improvement over the old way of doing things? Or are they more stressed and frustrated than before? Just as important, is your new complaint management software sufficiently accessible? With more and more people working remotely, the system should make it as easy as possible for complaint handlers to work from anywhere while still following consistent processes.

Low end-user adoption is the most common reason technology projects fail. So, while the answers to these questions might seem like a given, it's important not to take them for granted.

Here are the two main reasons for low end-user adoption:

1. The Software Doesn't Meet End-Users' Needs

When complaint management software doesn't meet end-users' needs, it's often because the firm has chosen a generic complaint management solution.

If the vendor doesn't understand the financial services sector's nuances, there's bound to be a lot of trial and error during the implementation process. The software might still lack basic capabilities even after several iterations. For example, it might not flag the date by which the case handler must send a response so as not to fall foul of the applicable rules.

Working with a specialist vendor can go a long way towards addressing this issue. But it's also worth asking case handlers for their perspective, as they may have a very different view of what needs improvement than senior management. Think of it this way. You wouldn't organise a surprise birthday meal for a friend without checking that the restaurant caters to their dietary requirements. Similarly, if your staff will be using a piece of software on a daily basis, it should be designed to meet their needs, not the other way round.

Getting end-users involved early in the process–perhaps even during vendor selection–is also important for another reason: it helps them feel more invested. While the prospect of not having to fiddle around with spreadsheets might sound great on paper, staff may feel threatened when you tell them you're going to introduce automation.

Giving them an opportunity to air their views and concerns goes a long way towards bringing them on side. And, if they're persuaded that the change will be for the better, they'll be more likely to put in the effort needed for the project to succeed.

2. Insufficient Training

There are two things to consider here.

  1. First, is your chosen complaint management software sufficiently intuitive? End-users will find it much easier to get to grips with the new system if the interface feels familiar and the software automates a lot of previously manual processes.

  2. Second, how robust are your vendor's training protocols? Every software solution, no matter how user-friendly, will still have a learning curve. And some staff members might take to it immediately, while others may find it challenging to get their heads around it.

Working with a vendor that carries out extensive user testing and provides comprehensive training ensures every user can find their way around the new software and make the most of its functionalities ahead of the official launch date.

Identifying "power users"—the case handlers who learn the new system most quickly—can also go a long way towards improving training outcomes.

FemTech Labs co-founder and software implementation expert Karina Varizova puts it this way: "[power users] provide you with valuable feedback and help adoption along by supporting those who are having a harder time getting to grips with the platform."

Step 5: Keep Your Complaint Management Software Compliant

If there's one constant in financial services, it's that regulations are ever-changing. In 2021, Thomson Reuters estimated that, worldwide, there were over 900 regulatory agencies issuing around 200 regulatory updates every single day.

Of course, not every regulatory update will impact your complaint management system (or be relevant to your firm). But, for your complaint handling process to remain compliant in the long term, you can't treat software implementation as a once-and-done deal. You also need a framework in place to:

  • Understand how relevant regulatory changes need to be reflected in your complaint-handling workflows

  • Integrate those changes into your software, whether this involves changing a few fields or something more radical

Here again, a specialised complaint management software vendor helps make the process simpler and more straightforward.

Because they're exclusively focused on financial services, the vendor's consultants can make recommendations on the best way to tweak your configuration so your complaint-handling workflow stays compliant. You're getting complaint management system best practices straight from the experts, which reduces trial and error and lowers your risk of non-compliance.

The best complaint management solutions also enable you to make changes quickly, even if you don't have coding knowledge. Drag-and-drop interfaces enable complaints handling staff to make tweaks themselves, without having to involve the in-house IT team, or wait weeks or months for the vendor to send somebody over.

Complaint Management System Implementation, in a Nutshell

Between 70% and 95% of digital transformation projects fail or fall short. But, more often than not, you can minimise the risks, or even avoid them completely, if you follow three simple steps:

  1. Lay the groundwork.

    Figure out your priorities, plan clear objectives and put someone in charge with the ability to keep staff motivated and ensure the project is delivered on time while fulfilling all your goals.

  2. Bring end-users on side as early on as possible.

    End-users are at the coalface of complaint handling. As such, they're bound to have valuable perspectives you might not have considered. Plus, no software implementation can succeed without the support of those using it every day.

  3. Choose your complaint management software vendor wisely.

    When you work in a specialised sector, you need specialised tools. A financial services-focussed complaint management system, supported by experts in your sector, can simplify the implementation process and help you make sure you reap its rewards.

We're Not a Configurator. We're a Trusted Partner.

At Aptean, we go to great lengths to make sure the complaint management software implementation process is quick and seamless. We take the time to understand your business, how your complaint management function works and the key areas you want to address.

We then have thorough user-acceptance testing and training processes in place to help you get off to a smooth start. And we're always on hand to help you identify how to reflect new requirements into your workflow, so you can stay continuously compliant with minimal disruption no matter what regulators throw your way. Crucially, working with Aptean means you have expert support on an ongoing basis.

Aptean Respond, our cloud-first case and complaint handling solution, is designed specifically for financial services firms. This means it is optimised to meet all of your complaint management system requirements straight out of the box, which speeds up implementation. We're able to deploy in as little as two months.

Our Configuration Manager also makes it easy for your complaint-handling staff to make changes in response to regulatory updates, even if they don't have any coding knowledge. And, because we handle hosting, upgrades, maintenance, and other technicalities, there's little to no impact on your in-house IT infrastructure.

Want to learn more about how Aptean Respond can help you build a more efficient, effective and resilient complaint-handling function that keeps your customers coming back? Reach out to us today for your personalised demo.

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