Westpac is working with IBM to transform the way its 15,000 customer-facing staff handle and resolve complaints.

The system, dubbed ‘Resolve’, is built using IBM’s enterprise case manager architecture and makes it simpler for branch and contact centre staff to log and resolve complaints.

The new enterprise-wide technology project consolidates nine ageing complaints systems to deliver operational improvements and help the bank meet its compliance obligations.  

In a company blog posted today, the bank said the system will help meet the corporate regulator’s “incoming dispute resolution guidelines by embedding ‘compliance by design’ into the system, including automated prompts to meet new mandated resolution timeframes.”    

In 2021 the bank says the system will allow for customers to log their complaint via their online banking app and track it progresses to resolution. 

In the future, artificial intelligence will be applied to the system to help navigate bankers or customers through “guided resolutions” the bank said. 

“This is a huge opportunity to significantly improve customers’ experiences, get all of our people onto the same system, have one single view of complaints and one source of data,” said Westpac’s general manager customer solutions Lisa Pogonoski, who is overseeing the project. 

According to Pogonoski, the benchmark for success is the number of complaints resolved the first time a customer contacts the bank. 

Handling customer complaints was elevated to a board-level concern following the banking royal commission. 

Westpac has made other improvements to its complaints handling processing including, centralising teams formerly scattered across the organisation, standardising processes and forming a “customer outcomes committee” to work through complex cases and a team dedicated to supporting vulnerable customers.  

In the last financial year the bank recorded a 94 per cent increase in complaints, compared to year-on-year decreases in the previous three years.

Westpac group executive Carolyn McCann welcomed the rise, saying it reflected a mindset shift that complaints are an opportunity to better serve its customers rather than a failure to deliver good service.

McCann said the changes have led to a significant reduction in time to resolve complaints. According to the bank, in the six months to March 31, 2020, the average complaint resolution took six days, down from 9.4 in the previous corresponding period. 

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