Creating the Customer Service Mentality in Investigations

To cultivate a good compliance culture in your business you need people to feel comfortable reporting and have a good experience. How can we do this? By treating those involved in investigations as customers.
Creating customer service mentality in investigations

Nobody likes submitting a ticket into a faceless customer support system. You’re already irritated because something isn’t working. You need answers but there isn’t a person to ask. The email with a ticket number and vague promise to get to you “soon” doesn’t fix the problem, and in fact, may compound it. In short, it’s a terrible experience.

Now imagine that experience, but add in the fear of reporting a crime, fraud, discrimination, or threats of violence. The canned email saying that “we have received your concern” with no details doesn’t make you feel better. In fact, it may make you regret ever saying anything in the first place.

It Doesn’t Have to Be This Way

Whistleblower programs and speak-up hotlines are ubiquitous in companies. It’s not usually the software provider that makes the difference as to whether the hotline succeeds or fails. It’s the people creating process around the investigations and the awareness of the human impact on individuals caught up in the experience.

We rarely think of the people involved in an investigation as customers, but it is a beneficial way to view their journey. We are there to serve them in a stressful time. Here are some ways to ensure that their experience is as good as it can be.

Set Expectations Early

These days, the majority of people report via web portal or email, which is a very impersonal experience. We need to reassure people and humanize the process as soon as we can.

The first response to a report should set expectations. This communication should set a reasonable timeframe within which the reporter will hear from a human. People who have submitted are often fraught with nerves. Knowing that a human will reach out within 72 hours or one week (at the latest) will keep them calm during that period.

The European Whistleblower Directive requires companies to respond to reports in a timely and effective manner, which, in the Directive, is recommended to be within seven days.

If you are inundated with reports, you can still contact the reporter during the window of expectation to tell them that their report was received and is being responded to. That human touch gives people confidence.


Let Them Know the Process

Part of your auto-response can include a link to a PDF or include an attachment that describes the investigation process. You can read our blog about how to create an investigation process infographic over on the Spark Compliance website. The more information people have up-front about what will happen, the better. Knowing what will happen makes people feel more secure.

Keep in Touch Throughout

Once the initial contact is made and the process explained, it is imperative to keep in touch with the reporter.

If possible, continue having discussions with the whistleblower every four to six weeks if the case hasn’t been closed within that time. You’ll be checking in on their nerves and to ensure they aren’t being retaliated against.

The European Whistleblower Directive requires organizations to provide information to the whistleblower within a reasonable timeframe after receiving the report. The Directive recommends that the feedback is given within three months. That should be the outside amount of time – not the minimum.

Provide Information on Case Closure

Everyone who can be told that the case was closed should be informed. The reporter and the accused should definitely be informed, as should people who participated heavily in the investigation. There is always a concern about breaching confidentiality, and lawyers are frequently uninterested in sharing any detail of the outcome. Regardless, what can be shared should be shared.

People despise uncertainty. The more you can reassure them that the proper steps were taken, and the issue has been resolved, the better. Even if people are unhappy with the outcome, they will appreciate knowing that it is complete.

Survey with tick boxes

Survey Says

An emerging best practice is to send a post-investigation survey to the major participants to gather information on their experience. Depending on the issue, you may want to avoid sending the survey to the accused. Regardless, gathering information about their experience will be invaluable for improving your program.

You can ask questions using a 1 – 5 scale about the intake process, immediate response, responsiveness during the investigation, and the close-out process. You can also leave a text box so people can provide specific feedback.

Most people won’t contact the Compliance department after an investigation to provide feedback proactively. By asking for feedback and providing a way to remain anonymous, you’ll be able to improve your process.

Who Did It?

When survey respondents give their names, you can compare the experience and ratings of those who went through investigations with Human Resources investigators compared to Compliance. You can even break down the results by business unit or geography. This will help you identify where investigators need more training or consistency in their work.

Customer Service is Key

A good compliance culture relies on people feeling comfortable reporting and having a good experience. When you provide that, you’re part of the solution.

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Kristy Grant-Hart

Kristy Grant-Hart is the founder and CEO of Spark Compliance.
She's a renowned expert at transforming compliance departments into in-demand business assets.