The Garrulous Jay – A Tale Of Two SIPPies

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The repercussions of coronavirus will be felt for years to come. For many customer-facing businesses it has been a ‘moment of truth’: an opportunity to deliver outstanding service despite the manifold challenges those companies face or, frankly, to fail.

Nowhere have I seen this more clearly than in the contrasting experiences I have had with two SIPP providers I work with. For the purposes of this piece I shall call them SubparSIPP and SuperiorSIPP.

In March two clients both wanted to make top-up contributions to their St. James’s Place Trustee Investment Accounts held within their respective SIPPs. Here’s what happened next…

SubparSIPP – Communication was hampered from the start by the company closing all its telephone lines and switching to an email-only service. Clients and advisers were asked to send any communication to a group Inbox. Turnaround times were extended, misunderstandings compounded, the payment misdirected and the client’s funds were eventually invested about three months later. An email sent a month ago querying the proposed resolution to the formal complaint we lodged with the firm has gone unanswered. The Customer Complaints line also goes through to voicemail and no response has been forthcoming from this either.

SuperiorSIPP – After three rings the phone was picked up and the call handler transferred the call to colleague who was able to provide clear guidance on what needed to be done. The funds were invested in three days.

What these contrasting experiences show is there is no excuse, literally, for poor service in the current circumstances. Companies that are well-organised are equipped to deliver outstanding outcomes for their clients.

It’s my belief, however, that this has less to do with the processes, systems and technology each company has at its disposal, and much more to do with the corporate culture. Times of crisis present an opportunity to do more and go the extra mile for clients, or to use it as an excuse behind which to hide and let service standards slump.

Unsurprisingly, SubparSIPP will be losing my client’s business at the earliest opportunity, and I fear for its long-term future. SuperiorSIPP was clearly so good they have since been acquired by a competitor, where I hope their can-do culture will spread among their new colleagues.