Every complaint is an opportunity

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Each year, ABN AMRO receives about 136,000 comments from clients. While these comments usually concern issues that can be solved quickly and easily, such as damaged or retracted bank cards, some of them are actually complaints. Complaints are generally more complicated and difficult to resolve. ABN AMRO has a department which has been specially designated to deal with complaints: ABN AMRO Complaints Management. One-quarter of the 136,000 client comments are handled by this department. Alex Terpstra (Head of Complaints Management) and Klaas Ariaans (Personal Banking Director) tell us more about het bank’s policy and vision on handling client complaints.

Vision on complaints management

Klaas Ariaans: 'To me, a complaint is an opportunity to solve a situation right away. I believe we should move towards the type of model used by insurance companies, which is based on the notion that a client is considered to be right until the bank proves otherwise. Say, for example, that somebody tried to withdraw €50 from an ATM, but only received €40. Reimbursing the missing €10 straight away is much quicker and more pleasant for the client. If the client turns out to be wrong, it’s easy enough for us to find him. Research shows that clients usually act in good faith, so this model could work quite well for ABN AMRO too.'

Alex Terpstra agrees: 'We are also considering how we can avoid complaints like those we are now receiving regarding the ending of the chipknip, or electronic wallet. We had initially decided to have clients take responsibility for transferring their chipknip balance to their current account, as it’s technically complicated for the bank to do that. But we later decided to do this on behalf of the client and repay the balance with effect from 1 January 2015. The client doesn’t need to take any action.'

More authority

ABN AMRO regularly meets with other parties, such as the Netherlands Authority for the Financial Markets (AFM) or the Dutch consumer rights organisation to discuss how the bank can improve its client centricity. Klaas Ariaans: 'We want to customer loyalty, and one way to do this is to give staff at local branch offices more authority to resolve complaints right away. This approach is quicker and more convenient for the client, who is not referred from one desk to the next. It means making one employee responsible for resolving the client’s complaint and providing feedback on the status of the process.'

Alex Terpstra: 'A feedback loop would provide a mechanism to help avoid the same complaint from recurring in future. In fact, I would be happiest if we could entirely dissolve our Complaints department. That would be the ideal situation, as all complaints would then be solved directly by the branch offices, the service line or via the website where clients can report their complaints.'

Communication

Klaas Ariaans: ‘It’s important for staff to have the appropriate knowledge to resolve complaints. But empathy is equally important, too: customers should have the feeling we understand them. If you’ve just had a fender bender, you want the other person to ask if you’re alright. You don’t want them to jump straight into dealing with the damage and claims – all that will come later. So in the coming years, we will be investing heavily in further improving employees’ attitude and behaviour.’ Another way ABN AMRO regularly talks with customers about their complaints is in a so-called customer arena. Terpstra: ‘We invite a customer to tell their “story” and how they think the bank could do things better. This is very enlightening, and it makes our staff more aware of what customers want. Plus – and this is crucial – we can improve our processes to make things better for our customers.’

Want to find out more about ABN AMRO Complaints Management? Go to www.abnamro.nl/klachten (in Dutch).

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