Consumer Complaint Database Brings Renewed Focus to Customer Experience

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s (CFPB) recent decision to start publishing consumer narratives as part of their Consumer Complaint Database represents substantial new reputational risks to lenders. The point of the database, which will be highly publicized, is to provide consumers with a perspective on the quality of service provided by various financial services companies. However, the CFPB will make no attempt to qualify or validate the narratives submitted by consumers, and lenders will be severely restricted in the ways in which they can respond via the CFPB’s public-facing website.

The obvious solution is to reduce negative complaints by improving customer experience. But that’s easier said than done, and most lenders would assert that they’ve already formed a strategy around customer experience. Some have invested in developing new capabilities to understand, improve and measure customer experience such as journey mapping, customer segmentation, and comprehensive complaint processes and metrics. With the new database, however, the cost / benefit ratio is changing, and even companies that have already invested in customer experience may find that it’s time for a renewed focus.

To make meaningful progress in reducing complaints and improving customer engagement, organizations need to address customer experience from a holistic perspective and develop a new set of strategies and capabilities to address these issues.

Onmichannel strategies and integrated business systems that support seamless connections and transfers across client teams and business units can have an enormous impact on customer experience. Developing a global content management control and delivery strategy that enables team members to search and quickly find relevant and accurate information can improve response times and ensure that team members communicate consistently.

Active data analysis of complaint activity and control systems can aid banks in quickly examining root cause issues to minimize preventable complaints. Banks should employ systems that alert leadership of any complaint spikes before the bank sees its brand in the Wall Street Journal.

Finally, ensuring that statements, customer tools, documents, and communications always present information in a consistent and easily understood voice can go a long way toward improving customer experience.

The CFPB’s new policy, with respect to publishing consumer narratives on its Consumer Complaint Database, provides a new challenge to lenders struggling to comply with the new customer response regulations. But these challenges can also be seen as a catalyst for raising the bar on customer experience. Organizations that best meet this challenge will create sustainable, competitive advantages that will outweigh the costs of compliance.

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  1. Matt Nielsen
    Apr 17, 2015 - 11:58 PM

    The CFPB, by publishing consumer narratives, is attempting to shame lenders and servicers in ways that narrowly avoid improper disclosures according to Dodd/Frank, FDCPA, GLBA, etc. The cost of compliance initiatives will never be regained by competitive advantages in customer experience. Particularly so, given the fact that the scramble to comply with vague (at best) guidance (ANPR, NPR, ???) from the CFPB has been going on now for several years and has caused no small amount of uncertainty in the industry. The “hurry up and wait” cry has worn thin the nerves of every creditor, servicer, vendor, adviser, and anyone else that is now a “financial institution” by virtue of their relationship with any single originator.

    Unfortunately, it seems that the ROI on compliance initiatives is in the negative and isn’t likely to turn black (from red) anytime in the near future.