Insights series 3: Assurance. Part 1 – Assurance 101: overseeing and improving the customer journey

Our latest Insights series looks at the importance of assurance in achieving good customer outcomes.

Quality assurance should be a key part of every financial firm’s toolbox when it comes to managing risk. But assurance work should be about more than just that; it is an opportunity to promote a positive culture, to inform training and coaching, and to identify areas for further development. This results in assurance proactively driving change to improve customer outcomes.

The LSB’s latest thought piece for registered firms, Assurance 101: overseeing and improving the customer journey, looks at the foundational importance of assurance. It recognises that without good assurance practices, it is impossible for registered firms to comply with the Standards of Lending Practice (the Standards) or the other Codes which the LSB oversees. Quality assurance should go beyond simply managing risk and seeing whether something was done (for example, checking whether a particular process was followed). Instead, firms want to look at how outcomes are reached and assess whether there is room for improvement in how the product or service is delivered.

The benefits of an integrated and continuously reviewed assurance strategy cannot be overstated. These benefits can be achieved in a number of ways, for example, by utilising a three lines of defence model, but any method should be risk-focused. Targeting assurance work at the greatest risk areas, such as the stages of the customer journey that most affect outcomes, is effective and efficient. Different assurance methods will be necessary to best capture the many elements that affect the customer journey. Balancing priorities, without sacrificing quality of assurance over quantity, requires forward thinking and an embedded strategy.

Special care needs to be given to ensure that space is provided within QA processes for individual judgment to be exercised and recorded, for example, as to whether the right outcome was reached.By examining the fundamentals of QA, such as considering the tools used at each step (whether individual QA check, call calibration, customer journey review etc.), firms can continually develop how they oversee their work. Through a commitment to best practice when it comes to assurance, firms can have greater confidence in what they do and the outcomes they deliver.

It is important to remember that there is the potential for QA to be detrimental to good outcomes, for example, if it is too process driven. There is also the potential for missed opportunities if QA measures are overly focused on identifying where things have gone wrong, and therefore miss out on finding good practice examples. There needs to be clarity at each stage of the assurance process, to ensure that checks are working as intended and that there is not duplication of efforts by different teams.

Finally, it’s crucial not to miss the opportunities offered by considering assurance outcomes on a trend-level. This insight can feed into, amongst other areas, training and coaching programmes, helping to promote a culture of continual development and learning from others. It is clear that each of these different aspects and considerations need to be considered in conjunction with each other. Only by viewing and implementing assurance in a joined-up way will it be most effective, for customers and firms alike.

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