Can Complaints Be the Perfect Basis for Compliance Training?

  • Written by Harry A. Strausser III

strausser harryMany years ago, traditional companies used to maintain what they called complaint departments in their organizations. Can you imagine working in the complaint department of a company? Consider what you had to look forward to each day. Not a very positive outlook on your workweek! As business evolved, we adopted more palatable titles for these functions and became customer service representatives. It sounded much nicer, even though the function was quite similar.

No one likes complaints, and historically we viewed these communications along with the complaining party quite negatively. I’m sure you would find very few operators in the accounts receivable management industry getting a warm fuzzy feeling when consumers lodge displeasure with their organization, especially when those complaints are made to the likes of the CFPB. There are, however, other perspectives that claim we should be elated to receive expressions of concern from consumers as this allows us to mitigate the issues and effect positive change within the office thus circumventing more serious filings.

Firms lament the increasing costs of maintaining a compliant organization while adhering to the many layers of regulatory mandates. It may be costly but as Paul McNulty, former U.S. Deputy Attorney General once remarked, “If you think compliance is expensive, try non-compliance.”

Complaint Reception

Collectors receive complaints directly from consumers, via the Better Business Bureau, state regulatory offices, consumer attorneys, e-oscar and, of course, the CFPB. We need to make the function of complaining easy, welcoming and seamless for consumers so that we can get the information quickly and respond expediently. Many firms have created “complaint portals” on their company websites and consistently urge consumers to simply, and in detail, express their concerns. A complaint received in house is one less possible more serious mark against your firm with the CFPB.

From a training perspective, complaints serve as a rich source of material for formulating new programs for staff. Although we train on a host of important topics to give staff members a well-rounded educational experience, compliance is the foundation of most training initiatives. Although we can anecdotally compile training from industry reports of suits and aggregators of suit/complaint data like WebRecon on a generalized basis, the real foundation of positive change affected by in house training is generated by possible deficiencies in your office setting.

Using Complaints As Tools

As diligently as organizations strive for perfection, there are continual changes in compliance standards and perspectives that make the training function critical in sustaining a successful and profitable enterprise. Firms must be ready to change at a moment’s notice to be compliant. Preparation is key in every element in a contemporary office. It was Abraham Lincoln that said, “If I had eight hours to chop down a tree, I’d spend six sharpening my axe.” Insightful training is the best sharpening stone for cutting edge practices and compliant cultures.

In the course of sharpening your corporate axes, it is an enlightening learning experience to access the CFPB’s complaint portal and do a cursory review of the actual complaints being filed against industry organizations. Learning what issues are of concern to consumers can additionally provide insight into organizational adjustments that may keep your firm off the complaint roles. It has often been lamented that many of the complaints filed are not actual violations of any rules and regulations, but dissatisfaction of some sort by the consumer. Whatever the nature of the complaints, there is much to learn that can assist our organizations create a safer, more compliant environment.

We continually welcome thoughts and best practices from our readers. Feel free to send us your feedback for possible inclusion in a future column. Until next time, I’m at my ACA Office waiting to hear from you!

Harry A. Strausser III is the Director of Education and Membership Development at ACA International and can be reached at Harry can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..