Compliance and customer service – friends or enemies?

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I can’t tell you how many times I have heard a regulated salesperson say that they have been held back by regulation and compliance from having a natural conversation with their customer.  Because having to follow a bunch of rules, say things in a certain way or follow a script is hindering their ability to sell through conversation.  When I managed a team of mortgage advisers in a contact centre for 5 years this was a situation I frequently had to address.

It seems obvious that having to follow rules, structure, scripts – whatever it may be – creates a barrier when you want to have a natural,  free flowing chat with your prospect.  How is it possible to be a conversational salesperson when there are requirements to say certain things, sometimes word for word, or go through data collection processes that make you sound robotic?  How can you create great customer experiences when your personality has been severely clipped?

All of the above is certainly a valid way of looking at the situation if you believe that natural conversation has no structure, rules or process!  Of course, I know it can be hard to see past the compliance barrier and notice how it can be a useful tool so what can be done to help regulated sellers see compliance as an asset rather than a barrier?

First of all, get your training right.  There is a tendency, usually driven by a nervous legal and compliance team, to ram home the need to be FCA clean throughout the course.  Normally backed up by lots of verbatim messages from the regulation and heavily loaded lists of consequences if you don’t comply it seems that scaring the seller is seen as a legitimate way of making sure they play by the rules.  What this does is tells them what they CAN’T do, not what they CAN, which stifles their ability to work out how their conversations need to be.  They certainly need to know where the boundaries lie so keep it all in perspective, allow them to play within the rules in training with unscripted conversations.  Then feedback and make adjustments as they go.  In this way the rules get weaved into the conversation instead of just being the conversation.

Feedback then becomes a list of ‘what you got wrong’ with no reference to conversation quality or customer service outcomes. 

Secondly, get your compliance observation criteria right.  Just like the training environment it can be easy to have a compliance check list based on looking for what is missing.  Feedback then becomes a list of ‘what you got wrong’ with no reference to conversation quality or customer service outcomes.  A balanced observation must contain the ‘not negotiable’ strike items that are serious breaches but not be the only items on the list.  Observing the quality of the conversation, for example, how well something was described that the customer must know about, is a very good way of helping a seller grow their compliant conversations and great conversations result in sales.

And the last thing is quality feedback and coaching.  Sellers really appreciate knowing that those who do the checking also know how to work with them to improve their conversations.  Compliance is a team effort so every business should integrate their training, observations and their sales team as one group, working to make sure that their customers receive the best sales advice and at the same time make the FCA smile.

Compliance and Customer Service – friends that give your customers and the FCA a reason to love you.

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