With the increasing ways the internet can influence a relationship between a business and its customers, it’s more important than ever to monitor your online reputation. However, like many other aspects of the ARM industry, interacting with customers online can be complicated. 

There are more avenues than ever for an unhappy consumer to speak out. It’s up to your agency to monitor what is being said so you can protect your business reputation. The most common ways for customers to lodge complaints online are:

  • The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB)
  • The Better Business Bureau
  • Yelp and Google Reviews
  • Social media, such as Twitter and Facebook

CFPB Complaints

While you should try to address any complaint as soon as possible, the CFPB requests your company respond in a timely manner so, it’s best to have policies and procedures in place at your agency to ensure no comments slip through the cracks. Tips from CAC’s Collection Boot Camp last year outlined other best practices for addressing and responding to CFPB complaints. For instance, thoroughly investigate claims, and reach out directly to customers whenever possible to better resolve issues.

When writing a CFPB response, keep in mind that your consumer is not in the industry and may not understand ARM industry jargon. Using plain language is advised. Consider whether the CFPB will think your explanation is adequate and be sure your answer won’t put your agency or clients in a bad light.

Also be aware: this venue for complaints may be changing. Last week, the bureau asked industry experts to provide input on their complaint portal. The feedback received from this request for information will shape the future of the CFPB’s complaint process, so ARM professionals who feel strongly about the issue are being urged to speak up and share their expertise.

The Better Business Bureau

The Better Business Bureau (BBB) is another popular website for customers who were unsatisfied with their experience. As with the CFPB, you have a timeline for responding to complaints, so be sure to respond promptly. But a word of caution: your BBB responses will be made public with no redacting of private information. Your agency may still choose to acknowledge complaints in this forum, but tread lightly, or you risk violating FDCPA confidentiality regulations. Simply admitting you worked with a customer may be considered third party disclosure.

One way to respond without violating the privacy of a consumer is to draft a generic BBB response. Simply state that in order to comply with the FDCPA, you can’t confirm accounts held at your agency. It may be helpful to include your customer service contact information, so consumers can reach out to you directly for resolution.   

Review And Social Media Sites

Yelp, Google Reviews and social media (such as Facebook and Twitter) are obviously less regulated, and how you decide to deal with them may change with the size and resources of your business.

As with the BBB, if you acknowledge an account on any of these sites you may be violating the FDCPA. A generic response might work well here too, but you’ll usually find it’s not worth your time to respond on these sites.

You may still want to monitor these comments even if you don’t respond. If a commenter gives enough information for you to look up their account, it’s always a good idea to ensure your agency followed proper procedures. This might prepare you for those who decide to take legal action later. Setting up a google alert for your business name works well for this purpose.

If your company does wish to use social media, LinkedIn is best for making professional connections. It is helpful for connecting with others in your industry as well as reaching out to potential clients. Because of this, it’s least likely to invite negative comments. If you decide to create other social media accounts, be sure someone at your agency monitors them regularly and follows company procedure in responding to comments.

Keep In Mind

You shouldn’t take complaints personally. Letting yourself get emotional can lead to reactionary rebuttals that can harm your company (or your own career) later. Don’t make combative statements that may impact your agency’s image, and don’t say anything that may disparage your clients.

Providing a ‘cool down’ period before responding to a complaint is always a good practice to follow. For an extra level of security, you might wish to have a second pair of eyes read your company’s responses, making sure they are clear, concise, respectful, and compliant.

To read more about addressing and responding to customer disputes of all kinds, read Collection Boot Camp: How to Respond to Collection Disputes.

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