A Complaint By Any Other Name Is Member Feedback

For a credit union with nearly $14 billion in assets, BECU receives few complaints. Here are three of the institution’s best practices in resolving and managing complaints.

So far in 2015, 23 consumers have filed a formal complaint via the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s Consumer Complaint Database against BECU ($13.8B, Seattle, WA). That’s roughly one complaint for every 41,000 of its members.

I don’t see very many complaints, says Leslie Frazier, the credit union’s retail experience support manager.

Of course, not all complaints against the institution go through the CFPB rather, BECU uses a customer relationship management (CRM) system to track and organize all member feedback through its branch network, call centers, social media channels, and Net Promoter Score surveys and not all of the feedback the credit union gathers is complaints.

As the lead of a team responsible for improving processes in BECU’s 42-branch network, Frazier’s charge is to eliminate waste and improve the member experience. This includes handling complaints.

Here, Frazier shares three best practices for complaint resolution and management.

1. Get It In Writing (Or At Least In The System)

BECU craves member feedback and recognizes the importance of listening to those individuals who, ultimately, own the institution. One of its core values, Frazier says, is putting members first.

If they have a complaint we take those seriously, she says.

When a complaint comes in, through any of the various channels BECU tracks, the credit union encourages employees to own it. Whoever sees a complaint first is responsible for adding it to the CRM, with the date stamp and the nature of the complaint, before reaching out to the member to assure them their complaint is being routed to the appropriate person.

Collecting all this data allows BECU to more accurately respond to the needs of its members and identify trends that highlight the root cause of reoccurring pain points.

We solve the cause, Frazier says. That way it’s not going to be a problem for any members in the future.

2. Strive For The Personal Touch

When a member fills out a Net Promoter Score survey , they can note whether they’d like the credit union to contact them in the future; those who post on Yelp, Facebook, or Twitter expect near real-time responses from the credit union.

There are a number of ways for members to voice their feedback, positive or negative, and for credit unions to respond. Thanks to advances in technology, the walls between members and the institution have almost totally come down.

Even so, Frazier says, members don’t expect much communication outside the branch. Doing so, therefore, is an effective way for the credit union to answer questions, resolve complaints, and differentiate itself.

They are usually shocked to hear from us, she says. We just validate or make sure we understand their concern because it might not be what we think it is. If that’s the case, we can ask them more specific questions.

When members are unsatisfied with the way the credit union is handling feedback, they voice their questions and make comments. When they are satisfied, they don’t say much.

But that’s not why BECU handles complaints the way it does.

We do it because it’s the right thing, says Todd Pietzsch, the credit union’s manager of public relations. When a member does respond, either positively or negatively, BECU considers that further justification of its complaint resolution model.

When we see that, it’s well worth the effort, Pietzsch says.

3. Hire For Must-Have Skills

Frazier’s team is composed of four employees who improve retail processes and support retail staff more generally by keeping forms up-to-date and maintaining knowledge of internal protocols. A large chunk of their responsibilities also involve managing member complaints.

When Frazier needs to fill a vacancy, she looks for employees heavy in interpersonal savvy, composure, and compassion. She can offer procedural-level training to employees but she can’t as easily teach those soft skills.

BECU as an organization also highly values those soft skills. And when Frazier re-staffs using internal candidates a strategy preferred by BECU she knows even if they are entirely unfamiliar with conflict resolution or the best channels to handle a complaint, high-performing employees have already demonstrated the soft skills she looks for.

We want employees who want to help members and are calibrated to ask why’ questions, Frazier says. We want to get to the bottom of things so people won’t have the same problems over and over.

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