Your Best Practices Checklist for Resolving Client Complaints

Client complaints—it happens to the best of us. Some financial advisors go for years without receiving a client complaint. But it will happen, and when it does, it can seemingly come out of left field. Most client complaints are unexpected, which is why advisors must be able to quickly shift into rapid response gear or risk losing a client.

We’ve posted in the past about the importance of having a systematic communications strategy in developing solid, trusted, and enduring client relationships. As part of that strategy, advisors need a well-conceived, written process for responding to client complaints. The hope is that you will never need to use it, the same way pilots hope never to have to execute emergency landing procedures—but they know the procedure inside and out.

While losing a client’s trust is not nearly as consequential, it can be avoided, even strengthened, if you adhere to your own procedural checklist of best practices for effectively handling your next client complaint.

#1. Respond promptly

Handling a client complaint does not belong on a “to-do” list. The moment you receive one, it must become a “drop everything else” top priority. A timely response demonstrates your commitment to resolving the issue promptly, which is the first step in regaining your client’s trust.

#2. Stay calm and professional

Regardless of the nature or validity of the complaint, remain calm and professional while expressing concern about the issue.

#3. Actively listen

Your active listening skills will never be more crucial. Listen to your client attentively without interruption, allowing them to voice their concerns fully to ensure you understand the issue from their perspective.

#4. Empathize

Another critical soft skill to use at a crucial time. We’ve written extensively on the importance of showing empathy to make a personal connection with a client. At no other time is that emotional connection more important. After letting your clients share their concerns, it’s essential to validate them and make them feel understood.

#5. Take responsibility

Regardless of the nature of the complaint, advisors must take a “the buck stops here” approach and assume total responsibility, at least until the issue has been investigated and resolved. That’s a critical step to regaining your client’s trust.

#6. Investigate thoroughly

Let your client know you will personally and immediately investigate the matter. Gather all relevant information, including documents and records, to understand the situation.

#7. Provide clear explanations

As you come to understand the circumstances, be precise and concise in explaining the situation and check your client’s understanding of your explanation.

#8. Offer solutions

If the complaint turns out to be the result of an error by you or your firm, propose a solution that will address the issue and reassure your client that it will never happen again.

#9. Be transparent

Keep your client informed about the progress of the complaint resolution process—another critical step to regaining their trust and confidence.

#10. Follow through

Follow up with your client to confirm their satisfaction with the outcome.

#11. Document everything

Keep detailed records of the complaint, including your investigation and the resolution process. Having a clear trail of communication and actions taken can be invaluable in case of future issues.

#12. Learn from complaints

Client complaints are learning opportunities, allowing you to analyze the root cause of the issue to prevent similar problems in the future.

#13. Train your staff

Review this best practices checklist with your staff and, where appropriate, assign responsibilities for executing the steps of the process.

While handling client complaints is not as consequential as keeping a plane in the air, you never want to crash and burn with a client. You could be the best service provider in the world, but how you handle a client’s complaint is a defining moment. It’s best to be prepared.

Related: The Significance of Ethical Practices in Maintaining Trust and Integrity