Given the high volumes of transactions and number of people agents deal with throughout a year, the likelihood of receiving a complaint at some stage is evitable. This is according to Paul Offley, Compliance Officer at The Guild of Property Professionals, who adds that while it is never a pleasant experience receiving a complaint, if handled in the correct manner it can be used as a learning tool for the business and a way to improve the customer journey.
“If you think about the number of customer interactions an agent has on a daily and weekly basis the figures really do start to add up. Think about the viewings arranged, market appraisals, offers received, sales negotiated, tenancies arranged and managed, the list goes on. Out of all of that, the majority of your customers will be happy with the service the agent provides, but as in any organisation, the odd thing does go wrong, and what is really important about a complaint is how the agent deals with it,” says Offley.
He notes that the first thing agents need to do is ensure they have a complaints procedure in place. This should be displayed on their website so that a consumer can easily see the process they need to follow to put in the complaint. “If a complaint is received, it is vital that the agent acknowledges receipt of it, ideally within three working days or less. It is important to acknowledge the complaint, because as far as a consumer is concerned, they want to know they have been heard and that the agent is doing something about it,” Offley comments.
The next step is to do a full and thorough investigation around the complaint, paying attention to what they have complained about and the response from the business during the incident. “If something has gone wrong, don’t be apprehensive about acknowledging that it has gone wrong, but steps are being taken to rectify it. While we are all striving to do the best for our customers, mistakes can happen and it is better to be honest about it to the consumer,” says Offley.
He notes that once an agent has issued their complaint, they will need to have a process in place should the customer not be happy with how it has been dealt with. “Ideally, agents should keep trying to resolve the issue until they have explored all possible avenues, and at that point, a final viewpoint letter should be issued, which allows the consumer to then go to the address provider,” Offley adds.
“Where some firms fall on the procedure, is not looking at why the complaint happened in the first instance. Is it because someone’s knowledge is not quite where is needs to be? Is it because someone’s interpretation of the legislation is slightly different to what it is in reality? Is further staff training required in some areas of the business? Complaints should always be used as an opportunity to review processes and check whether the business needs to be doing things in a different manner to avoid an issue occurring in the future,” he says. “If an agent responds to a complaint effectively, does a root cause analysis of why it has occurred and learns from it, then a potentially negative thing can be turned into a massive success and a positive growth and development tool.”