The value of money

Distress and Inconvenience – how do you put a value on money? It’s all down to the impact

When it comes to distress and inconvenience payments, nailing it isn’t always as easy as we’d like it to be.

But why isn’t it?! – I hear you shout at the screen while you read this. If the same thing happens to different people, surely the fairest and most equitable approach is to treat them the same and give them both the same amount of money?

Ah. Well, pull up a chair and make yourself comfortable because the answer to that is no. It isn’t that simple. And firms using a matrix system to pay a certain amount when X goes wrong are missing a trick. A big one.

It’s not a one-size fits all. Think about the impact 

There are a few problems with a ‘one-size fits all’ approach. First of all, it doesn’t. And the reason why it doesn’t work for everyone is because of the vital bit of the jigsaw puzzle missing from this approach. And what is that? It’s impact. The impact of what’s happened to the customer, how it’s affected their life and how they feel.

Know Your Customer and look at what’s underneath the reaction

But should we offer a different amount because the customer has reacted to it differently to the way another customer has? It’s an interesting question. My view is that the reaction you get from a customer isn’t a helpful measure for how much you should offer. Any reaction is normally a symptom of the impact and the emotion that’s wrapped up around it. So my advice to any complaint handler is to get to the bottom of why the customer has reacted the way they have, because that, in turn, will normally tell you about the impact the situation has had on a customer. And when I talk about impact, I mean financial as well as from an emotional wellbeing perspective.

Take the scenario of a direct debiting error that causes a double payment to be taken from your customers’ accounts. It happens. We’ve seen it.

For some customers, this error has absolutely no impact on them whatsoever. It doesn’t even make them a blink. A mild irritation that is solved for them before they feel the need to say something.

For others, the impact could not be more at the other end of the spectrum. This same simple error causes havoc, making customers overdrawn and unable to pay for vital household expenses. They desperately need their money back. Like yesterday.

And then there’s the group in the middle. The many of us who are affected by it, but not so much as to have a detrimental effect on our ability to go about and do our usual thing. But we’d still like the money back pretty sharpish thank you very much or we will become very annoyed by the whole debacle.

Each of those situations create very different reactions and behaviours because of the impacts.

It comes down to the value of the money

So, I’ve talked about impact but what about the way a customer views the value of money? If you have a high net worth client, should you offer them more than a customer who is in debt and could do with the money (any money) because they may see the value of money differently?

No, I don’t think you should. Like I said earlier on, it comes back to the impact. But what it might mean is that you need to be a little bit more creative when it comes to showing how sorry you are. For some customers, the money means everything. For others, it doesn’t. The eternal challenge for us complaints handlers to fathom out what will land well with each customer. That’s where understanding impact is our friend. It is a great leveller and helps us to see what’s happened to that fellow human being.

Missing out the vital jigsaw piece that is fully understanding the impact, doesn’t just affect your ability to reach the right offer for your customer. The damage is longer term than that. Getting it wrong – and sorry to pee on anyone’s strawberries here but customers do accept offers they aren’t that happy with for a whole host of reasons – means you’re more likely to see your customers walk away, reluctantly stay but be disengaged or go to the ombudsman service. None of those are good outcomes and are all avoidable if we just approach distress and inconvenience in the right way.

To find out more about this, other topics and the training we offer to firms about all aspects of handling complaints, visit our website: or drop us a message at

To find out more about this and other topics and the training we offer to firms about all aspects of handling complaints, see what we offer by clicking here.

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