DISP – 1.5 complaints resolved by the close of the third business day

They say a change is as good as a rest don’t they, but wouldn’t it be refreshing if we could take a hefty swipe at DISP to tidy it up and get it updated for 2020 and beyond. So, this week’s DISP under the microscope is DISP 1.5 – one of the newer, more shiny pieces of the rules that covers everything to do with Summary Resolution Communications (SRCs). We’ll give you some food for thought, in terms of working within the framework of the rules that still loom large in today’s complaint handling.

Because this is one of the newer bits of DISP – making its way into being on the 30 June 2016, you’d be forgiven for thinking that there wouldn’t be a need to have a look at this one. But, because DISP is a bit of a patchwork quilt of things, to make it look cohesive the language and the tone are all the same. I mean Summary Resolution Communication isn’t the clearest name is it? So let’s have a look at some of the main points covered in DISP 1.5 and see what we can take from it.

DISP 1.5.2A talks about when a complaint is resolved and states that resolution happens when a customer has indicated their acceptance, although this doesn’t have to be in writing.

Now, we know that there is something of a love/hate relationship with SRCs out in the industry, but the real issue comes when businesses write to the customer thinking it’s resolved. Caroline talked about this in one of 60 second videos last week, because the danger of using the SRC process is that the business may be under the misapprehension that the complaint is resolved, when the customer very much believes that it isn’t. So, how do you know if it’s resolved?

It all comes down to having a conversation with the customer. For us the SRC process is less about letter or email writing and more about having a proper, meaningful conversation with that person over the telephone. Granted, some customers will tell you they’re happy when they aren’t, but more often than not a telephone conversation makes it easier for both parties to establish that they’re both in agreement that resolution has been reached. Yes, customers can and will change their mind, but a proper conversation will reduce the risk of this becoming a consistent issue, and putting you off using a SRC in the right circumstances.

So what needs to go into a SRC? DISP 1.5.4 outlines the very basics including:

  • Being in writing
  • Refers to the fact a complaint has been made and that the business considers it sorted
  • Refers the customer to the Ombudsman Service, if they decide that they aren’t satisfied with the outcome
  • Confirms whether any time limits are going to be waived
  • Refers to the website of the Ombudsman service, and more information can be found there

But, could you be doing more to make better use of the SRC, so it lands well with the consumer? The simple answer is yes. Bearing in mind, you only have three days to resolve these issues, you have to get your skates on, but there is more around the preparation that you can do, before you actually issue the letter.

We’re in danger of sounding like a broken record here, but for us, it comes down to making sure you’re on the phone to that customer and building rapport from the off. It may sound like a big ask to turn a customer who is angry at you on day one, to a customer that is willing to stay a customer by day thee, but it can be done.

It means engaging with them on their terms and showing that you’re willing to do what it takes to sort their problem out properly and efficiently. And that means having the courage to face their emotions head on and meeting it with masses of empathy. All of this builds rapport and shows you care enough to want to sort the issue out as soon as you can.

If this sounds as though I’m simplifying things too much, then let me share with you that this is what I used to do as an adjudicator. I was charged with looking at some of the oldest mortgage cases, where the customer had been put through the wringer. These cases landed on my desk, with customers in various states of emotions. It was tough, but I picked up the phone and talked to them. Yes, I had my backside handed to me on a plate sometimes, but I was able to resolve a significant share of the complaints (some upholds, some not), just by showing that I was listening and understood their side of the story. And for the sceptics out there, this tended to happen in days and hours rather than weeks and months. Honestly, it does work.

And then what about making sure we’re meeting the customer on a level playing field? DISP 1.5.6 is all about making sure we communicate with people using their preferred method or we are meeting their needs.

This isn’t something that should just apply to SRCs either, as we’ll talk about next month when we look at Final Response Letters, but this is an important point to make. Why would you only write to a customer who has consistently spoken to you by telephone? Would you not want to prepare the ground for them receiving the written SRC, rather than just bunging them a letter or an email? And I use the word ‘bunging’, because this is very much the perception from the consumer if you do that, especially if you’ve left it to the last minute of the working day or the last minute on a Friday. It undoes all the work that you’ve done to build the rapport…

We’re very much of the opinion that nothing matches speaking to people over the telephone, but if someone is hearing impaired or has only communicated with you by email, then it makes sense to check in with them. These checks are very simple: 1) Are they happy to communicate with you in another way and 2) are they able to use that other communication channel? It all comes down to putting the customer’s needs ahead of your perceptions that this is an ‘easy’ resolution. Get this right and the three day resolution is very much possible.    

So by looking at DISP and asking yourself some searching questions with today’s expectations and tech layered on, you can make DISP distant but also work for you, not the other way around…

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