It’s one thing to have a set of rules, regulations and procedures in place for individuals to follow. It’s another entirely to have those same rules, regulations and procedures ingrained into your organisational culture so that they become second nature to all. There are few better processes to have in a company culture than a strong presence in Treating Customers Fairly (TCF). No matter what the life cycle of your products or services may be, both staff and clients can benefit from the advantages of the core principles. Staff learn to constantly apply themselves to outcomes based on fairness as well as solid business sense, while clients enjoy the supportive experience associated with TCF compliance.
Since the advent of TCF locally in 2011 by the Financial Services Board, the SA business sector has been privy to the underlying aims and principles behind the outcomes-based TCF approach. Many organisations, particularly in the financial arena, have opted to adopt TCF and self-regulate their management thereof. The stage is set for it to become an even more integral back- and front-end component of conducting business.
Here’s the kicker, though: TCF is fairly complex, and is (or ideally ought to be) involved in every aspect of a product or service’s life cycle, from inception all the way through to post-sale support. Although it only consists of six main tenets, trying to actively engage them at every step of the business route can be challenging, and it’s a challenge that is far too often put off for another time due to time or resource constraints.
Laying down TCF as a foundation in company culture, then, is a far more effective way to ask that the principles be applied than drafting and communicating a set of mere rules. The approach should be from the top down – management tiers should become the first experts on it, and consistently push their own team members to consider TCF until it becomes second nature. Asking individuals to commit to company culture is also far more reasonable than laying out a plethora of T&Cs when hiring and considering performance reviews. Finally, compliance and evaluation of TCF can then be coupled with personnel management directly for better education, instead of simply being points on a checklist.
When dealing with the six desired outcomes of TCF, serious consideration should be given to the fact that in the UK, where TCF has been prevalent for far longer, the model has proven highly effective at addressing key business issues at both consumer and regulatory levels. While the arguments exist that TCF is somewhat pro-consumer and that business bears the cost of training, compliance and errors, it is an ethical model that seeks to make the business-consumer relationship more positive. In the long term, this is advantageous to both entities.
TCF is not yet ubiquitous in SA, but there are tools available for organisations to at least benchmark themselves. Furthermore, business ethics implicitly mandates improvements to the way we conduct ourselves in offering our products and services. The last thing your company’s representatives wish to hear from a customer, after all, is “That’s not fair”.
The author wishes to acknowledge the South African Financial Services Board for much of the information presented herein; you can find out more about their view on Treating Customers Fairly by clicking here.