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Confidence in product service and complaint handling has fallen, says ABI

Consumer confidence in complaint handling and product services in the life, pensions and investment markets has dipped, according to the ABI’s latest Customer Impact Survey.

The 2008 to 2009 report shows 42 per cent of consumers surveyed who made a complaint were satisfied with the outcome compared to 44 per cent last year.

Fifty five per cent of the 20,267 surveyed feel their complaint had been handled poorly, down 2 per cent on last year, while just 11 per cent rated their complaint handling as excellent or very good.

Of the 34 companies taking part, none scored above 50 per cent in the development and promotion of their products. The highest scoring company was rated excellent or very good by 49 per cent of its customers. Meanwhile, just 34 per cent of customers rated product choice excellent or very good, with 42 per cent of people saying that they were very satisfied overall.

Speaking at an ABI media briefing today assistant director of consumer strategy Helen Vallianatos said: “There were some encouraging improvements but still areas where we need to do work. In terms of overall levels of satisfaction with products and service, specifically with product, both of these dropped this year.

“There is a strong correlation between satisfaction with investment returns and how peoples’ expectations have been managed and more general satisfaction. Given everything that has happened in the equity markets this year it’s not surprising there has been falls in ratings around the product satisfaction. That doesn’t mean though that we are in anyway complacent abut that, we’ll still be looking at that area in terms of our work going forward.”

Vallianatos says the ABI is now conducting qualitative research with customers into reasons behind dissatisfaction with complaint handling, and is enhancing its provider resources toolkit. She said: “Complaints has been a consistent area of concern from the survey results. Conducting some qualitative research around this is something we’re keen to do to get onto the surface of the complaints issue and to really see what it is the customers don’t like.

“We will be discussing those results with the Customer Impact Panel and members of the scheme to see what they tell us about areas of work.”

The most significant improvements were in the payment processes and sales processes. Payment process saw the most improved score this year with 53 per cent of people saying it was excellent, up 3 per cent on last year. The sales process ratings were up 1 per cent, to 54 per cent.

Post sales communication stayed constant this year, with 41 per cent saying it was excellent or very good, as did ratings of call centres, which stayed at 52 per cent.

ABI director of life and savings Maggie Craig says: “Where the survey has pointed to areas where companies need to improve, they have made practical changes to put things right. Members of the scheme will continue this work throughout 2009.”

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