No laughing matter
The fireworks finale marking the end of the Edinburgh Festival is a sure sign that summer is over and time to get back to the day job. With over 3000 acts on offer it would be difficult not to find something of interest, a feat of organisation reflecting our passion for choice in everything these days.
Darren Walsh won the award for Dave's Funniest Joke of the Edinburgh festival's Fringe 2015. The joke was chosen from 7200 entries and subjected to a panel of 2000 members of the public. A panel of comedy critics then selected the winner without knowing the identity of the entrants. The winning joke goes as follows: "I just deleted all the German names off my phone. It's Hans free." Probably just me, but it's rather more like one from a Christmas cracker. But of course the point is that you can't please everyone all of the time.
If we think of the choice we face in every aspect of our lives it's a far cry from even ten years ago. Not only in the vast array of products and services, but also how we can access them by a wide range of devices; think of music and TV outputs. Overlay this with products spanning several providers like our mobile phones and complexity rules.
The result for organisations is a multi dimensional model to plan, resource, navigate and crucially, get right; or risk the wrath of customers who now of course have many more ways to complain at their disposal.
No laughing matter was this year's report from the Financial Ombudsman Service showing a whopping 173,994 new cases over the last 6 months from customers who feel they have been treated unfairly by banks and insurers, an 8% increase on last year. This is hugely disappointing from an industry which has been subject to the highest level of scrutiny from the regulators and of course the media.
Events around the whole PPI episode have laid bare the degree to which transparency and trust has been lost in the sector. As with all such scandals there are unexpected consequences. Firstly we are coming out the other end as much more savvy customers who are no longer shy in voicing our concerns, and of course we have many channels at our disposal including the biggest weapon of them all, social media. Secondly, there is now a maturing and confident claims sector who are eagerly searching for new opportunities to bring organisations to account; pensions and travel delays look like fertile ground?
Organisations who want to strengthen their relationships with their customers need to own the complaints agenda and treasure it fiercely, as it is the holy grail, which will help them maintain and grow their businesses. To do this they have to become renowned as being fair in all circumstances; and in doing so earn the respect of all those who deal with them.
Putting in an entry for the best joke is one thing, as there is really no right or wrong answer other than choice. Putting in an entry for the best complaints handling team is quite another, given the scrutiny of results that is involved. We have been staggered at the volume and also the quality of entries for the highly coveted CCA Excellence Awards this year including this particular category.
So whilst there is lots of room for improvement, it seems that there are many tenacious brands out there who are up for the challenge and determined to stick their heads above the parapet to show that they mean business when it come to taking complaints seriously. Well done to all our entrants and to those hardy few who have made it to the shortlist. We will celebrate you all in a night to remember in Glasgow on 25th November.