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Complaints management: a great opportunity for Salesforce Financial Services clients

02nd December 2020

Author David Sidd

A Q&A with David Sidd, GM Australia


Firstly, tell us bit about yourself…

I’m an ex-management consultant, who has spent around 20 years working in the financial services industry, mainly in the insurance sector. A lot of my work involved supporting distribution and marketing teams, which is how I got my first exposure to Salesforce. I subsequently have played many roles in Salesforce implementations, either as a product owner, a sponsor or a project manager.

Davanti were keen to utilise my experience to help grow their financial services practice and so I jumped the fence to join in 2019. I took over as General Manager of Australia in June this year. We now have 11 people, with plans to more than double the size of the team in 2021.


Davanti is all about helping our customers get closer to their customers. How does your role help enable this?

I see my main role as listening to customers’ business problems and helping to break them down into digestible chunks. I then try and articulate how technologies like Salesforce can assist them.

I can easily empathise with their problems – given I’ve experienced many of them myself when I was in their shoes. It helps me build a conversation that focusses on business and avoid too much tech-speak. I try and build trust by showing that I care about their customers as much as they do.


What drove you to taking an interest in risk and compliance?

My interest in the financial services industry remains and I keep in touch with what’s going on across a number of sectors, including lending, superannuation, insurance and wealth management.

Risk and compliance has been a hot topic in the Australian market for many years, possibly reaching a crescendo with some very public dressing-downs following the Royal Commission into Banking.

Whether because of public outcry or impending regulatory change, I noted that many of Australia’s banks and insurers started changing their project portfolio mix, with more capex being spent on risk and compliance measures rather than traditional growth and efficiency initiatives.

This presented a great opportunity for Salesforce to showcase how it can pivot to meet the hot topics of the day. I started seeing a shift from where Salesforce moved from being focussed on front office activities (in business development, marketers or customer service) to using Salesforce to manage back office activities (in risk, audit, compliance and security). Rather than showcase marketing automation, sales processes or service case workflows, I found myself spruiking Salesforces’ auditability features with internal stakeholders!


You’ve recently released an article (here) on complaints management and the financial services industry. Tell us more about customer complaints – why is it such a hot topic?

Many of us have been on the end of a poor customer experience. In financial services, this may have related to questionable fees, rejected claims or even spam. What tends to exacerbate the poor experience is the frustrations encountered when trying to resolve the issue. To me the guidelines coming out from the regulators are long overdue! It’s pretty basic stuff – it’s really about formalising a process that ensures customers are not only listened to but responded to in a fair and reasonable manner.

The problem historically is that organisations focussed on how they could deal with customer complaints in the most efficient (read cost-saving) manner possible as opposed to how to solve the complaint. So it wasn’t much of a stretch that the ASIC identified that financial services firms’ handling of complaints was inadequate. As a result, they released Regulatory Guideline 165 (RG165) in 2019.

It reads for fairly basic stuff – outlining that organisations need to monitor complaints across all channels including social media, respond within a required timeframe and provide clear and consistent feedback. They also need to report to internal management boards and a newly created regulator, the Australian Financial Complaints Authority (AFCA).

Within a year of release the guidelines have been amended via Regulatory Guideline 271 (RG271), which has broadened the original set of guidelines. It asks firms to work even harder; they need to check for intrinsic signals that customer feedback may be negative; they need to respond faster and they need to register third parties working on behalf of a complainant. Boards need to be more actively involved also!

As a result of this, complaint volumes, and the management of them, will escalate quickly and significantly. Recording and reporting of complaints require capturing more details than before. And all this is happening during a recession when many companies are looking to reduce costs!


To what extent does the same apply in New Zealand?

It’s regulated but somewhat more collegiate. One of the other new features of RG271 is a requirement to let complainants know that they can escalate a complaint to a third-party customer advocate as an alternative to AFCA. Such third parties are the road to resolution in New Zealand.

In NZ, financial services firms are required by the Financial Service Providers (Registration and Dispute Resolution) Act to belong to a dispute resolution scheme. There are four schemes in total.

If an organisation does not resolve a complaint to the satisfaction of the customer, the customer is guided to the dispute resolution scheme their provider has (mandatorily) joined.  If the issue cannot be resolved via communal discussion, the scheme may make a decision which is binding on the financial service provider.

Regardless I’d like to think that regulators in both countries are trying to act in the best interests of customers; it’s still up to the firms to increase their focus in exceeding the expectations of customers when it comes to handling a complaint.


How can financial services organisations best address the latest changes?

Many insurers nowadays look at claim lodgements as a great opportunity to provide to provide a positive customer experience. They have not only simplified claims processes; they’ve set goals around communication, fairness and speed. Lo and behold; those getting it right have seen great results in terms of lower churn and increased up-sell revenues.

Complaints outside of claims are no different. Organisations should move disputes from a back-office administration task to a front-office sales task. This isn’t just about changing the way you service your clients; it’s about changing the behaviour of front-office staff. It sounds obvious, but customers are at their most fragile, and most volatile when making a complaint. It’s important to listen, but the instruction I would emphasise here is to show empathy. Even if the result may not be in the customer’s favour, showing care and consideration through the lifetime of a claim is so important.


How does Salesforce help organisations support this change?

Salesforce is uniquely placed in numerous ways.

Firstly, I talked earlier about back-office departments like risk, audit, compliance and legal that are having their day in the sun. Salesforce is unique in that it provides a clear record keeping system for any complaints that have been both lodged and responded to. You can follow a service case across all the touch points, whether they are inbound from the customer, or outbound from the service rep.

Secondly, Salesforce can help organisations automate legislative requirements through the complaint lifecycle. This includes capturing complaints via all channels including social media, categorising complaints, providing standard responses and automating reporting.

Finally, I mentioned earlier that organisations will need to handle more volumes faster, whilst generating more content and remaining consistent – and keep costs down! This is where Salesforce holds advantages by integrating it’s core clouds with out-of-the-box artificial intelligence. Tools like Einstein Bots, Einstein Analytics and Einstein Voice to help identify complaints, understand systemic issues and respond and allocate cases automatically even before a human operator is assigned. It’s not just about cost– it’s also about consistency and meeting the need.

To me – I think Salesforce is uniquely positioned to meet not only the needs of complaints management, but most compliance requirements in the financial services sector. Now if only they can rebrand an offering as Compliance Cloud…



David Sidd is Davanti’s GM Australia. He loves helping customers solve complex business problems. Outside of work, he’s an avid road cyclist who looks for hill climbs and is completely parochial to Sydney’s Northern Beaches.