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FSCS: from claimants to customers

FSCS recently hit its highest-ever monthly customer satisfaction score, with the rolling average increasing from 77% in the summer of 2019, to 85% today. The numbers are great, but as Jimmy Barber and Sarah Marin explained when we caught up with them - achieving them has been no accident.

"I banned the word 'claimant' pretty much straight away", is the first thing Jimmy tells us when we meet. He's leaving FSCS shortly after five years as the Chief Operating Officer (COO), and the improvement in customer satisfaction is part of the legacy he's leaving behind.

When Jimmy joined the business in 2016, 'customer' just wasn't part of the day-to-day language at FSCS. As a statutory service with no pressure from competitors, the focus on customers (or 'claimants' as they were then) wasn't always there. This was particularly a problem when people had to actively make a claim with FSCS, usually for products like pensions, investments and payment protection insurance - often linked to poor financial advice in the past.

Jimmy explains, "we can need a lot of time to investigate the firms involved in these claims, which can mean customers wait months, or sometimes even years, for a decision. FSCS can only pay claims where a firm owes a civil liability to its customers - that's the official way of putting it. In simple terms, it means we have to go through a rigorous legal process similar to how a court would." Making sure FSCS supported these customers through making their claim, and kept them up to date throughout the process, needed to become more of a priority.

So what changed?

"'What's the customer's view of this?' was a question I found myself asking a lot", Jimmy tells us. Between 2016 and 2019, FSCS went from accepting 0% to over 90% of its claims online, with all of the forms and online journeys co-created with real people, who may need to call on FSCS in the future.

Banning the word 'claimant' might be quite a blunt example, but from our conversation with Jimmy and Sarah, it's clear the underlying emphasis has been on culture. Everything has been realigned, so the experiences of customers, our employees and stakeholders more broadly are now at the heart of FSCS. This has meant looking at what we measure, what we reward, and how frequently and openly we talk about how we're doing across the operational teams and the wider business.

This culture shift has helped take FSCS's satisfaction scores from languishing in the 50% range to it now being consistently over 80%. February 2021 was actually the fifth month in a row that satisfaction for customers who come to FSCS directly averaged 85% or more - a testament to the work the whole team has done to improve our service and explain things clearly to customers.

This has all been done while still working tirelessly to improve efficiency and reduce the like-for-like costs of processing a claim - which were down 8% in the 2019/20 financial year.

Where do we go from here?

Sarah Marin has recently stepped into the new role of Chief Customer Officer on an interim basis, which is replacing the COO role. "It's not just a different job title" she explains. "It crystalises all that progress we've made and shows everyone across FSCS - and outside of the business - that our customer focus is here to stay. Customer experience is at the heart of my team, and having it in my job title is just a daily reminder of that."

Sarah and her team now have the task of sustaining the progress made so far, while also pursuing opportunities to improve further. "It's never a finished job", she says. "Customer expectations are changing all the time, and we're setting ourselves bigger goals too. In recent failures, we've managed to find ways to cut out the application process altogether. This not only saves customers effort and potential stress but also means more money goes back into their pockets if we are able to pay compensation directly - as we know many customers pay fees to third parties to help them make a claim."

These improvements are primarily aimed at helping FSCS deal with increasingly complex failures linked to pensions and investments, but we also help thousands of people each year when their insurer fails, or their bank, building society or credit union goes out of business. Those customers benefit too - as teams share improvement ideas with each other across the whole spectrum of FSCS protection.

Sarah explains, "every single person that has to deal with FSCS has been let down somewhere along the line by the finance industry. FSCS helps build confidence and trust in that industry - it can be reassuring simply by knowing we're there. But, simply existing is not enough. We'll continue to do everything we can to make sure our service is accessible, easy to use, and clearly explained to our customers every step of the way."

Want to find out more?

You can find out more about our claims service on our 'how we work' page.