Does Income Level Impact Customer Experience?

Does a customer’s income influence their level of frustration when they complain to the CFPB? Does a customer’s income influence their perceived discrimination when they complain to the CFPB? To begin evaluating the role that social economics play in customer complaints to the CFPB, PositivityTech ingested Census Bureau income data and integrated it with CFPB complaints from the last year, ultimately identifying these insights:
  1. Complaints escalated to the CFPB are concentrated in mid-income ranges.
  2. Customers’ perceived bias, as identified by PositivityTech’s Bias Index, is consistent across income ranges and reveals variability when customers complain about specific products.
  3. Customers’ severe frustrations, as identified by PositivityTech’s Severity Score, are consistent across income ranges, and reveal variability when customers complain about specific products.
  4. Customers’ levels of frustration and perceived bias vary by financial institution, and are influenced by the target market / product mix, organizational culture, and policies.

Do income levels impact customer complaints?

Almost 75% of the complaints escalated to the CFPB last year are from customers with incomes that range between $35,000 and $99,000.
Customer complaints that reveal PositivityTech’s highest Bias Index and customer complaints that reveal PositivityTech’s highest Severity Score are compared to the entire set of customer complaints to the CFPB in the last 12 months. As showcased in the graph below, there is consistency of income distribution across all three of these groups.
Here is a complaint from a customer with a high income, which reveals a high Bias Index and high Severity Score: I felt like I [had] a discrimination experience with customer service… When I made contact through a video relay service, they thought it was theft identification and flagged it to the fraud department. I understand their concern about security… I am deaf and using an interpreter to communicate with them. They had a communication barrier. XXX seems not to follow the America Disability Acts Law procedure. The customer care service representative threatened me and violated my rights. Here is a complaint from a customer with a low income, which reveals a high Bias Index and high Severity Score: I received a letter that claimed that activity on my account with XXX was indicative of high risk of failure to pay. This is simply not true as I have maintained an excellent payment and credit history. I called in and spoke to a telephone representative who did not provide good customer service and arrogantly told me to reapply if I wanted the card. I believe that I am a victim of XXXX and XXXX discrimination and redlining. While XXXX may be a low-income area, I am not in financial distress and have been a great customer.

Income levels differentiate perceived bias and levels of frustration when coupled with product-specific complaints

  • Higher income complaints with high perceived bias are concentrated in mortgages and credit cards.
  • Middle income complaints with high severity scores are concentrated in credit reporting and debt collection.
  • Lower income complaints are concentrated in credit reporting and debt collection.

With benchmarking, see how frustrated your customers are

Using PositivityTech, you can create customized logic for financial institutions’ benchmark groups. Using a benchmark group of 17 large financial institutions, we identified four institutions with the highest perceived bias based on their customers’ words, and four institutions with the highest customer frustrations based on their customers’ words. Within this group of 17 large financial institutions, one institution has the highest percentage of complaints in both the High Bias Index range and the High Severity Score Index range. Here is a complaint from a customer of this financial institution, which reveals a high Bias Index and high Severity Score: This was very rude behavior and absolutely humiliating. Yet again it wasn’t until after I had the assistance of my fiancé that this representative proceeded to further help. I feel as if I’ve been discriminated based on my gender and/or age… I’d also like to point out that I’ve always attempted to be very rational, respectful, and polite when speaking with these people so this kind of treatment was very unnecessary and demeaning. I plan to switch banks upon the release of my money… I hope these policies and lies do not continue to be implemented and overlooked.

The power of granular segmentation

PositivityTech provides you with the opportunity to understand which segments of your customer base are complaining, and to identify the issues most pressing for these segments. You can gain the most sophisticated, granular views of your segments and address your critical front-end business needs. You can be on the cutting edge by integrating customer complaints as a data source — and turning negatives into positives. See what PositivityTech can do for your business. Schedule a demo by emailing me at marcia.tal@positivitytech.com.

Three Problems That Need To Be Fixed: COVID’s Financial Impact

In the year since COVID-19 lockdowns began in the U.S., customer complaints reveal the ongoing impact of the pandemic and its economic fallout on customers. With the PositivityTech® Intelligent Platform, customer complaint data captures this reality and presents critical opportunities for banks and credit bureaus to repair practices.

Problem 1: Health impacts finances

As early as April 2020, customer complaints, like the one below, began to reveal the impact of their health stress on their financial stress. This impact continued to grow, with complaints to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau increasing by almost 54% in 2020, according to their recently released annual report. With PositivityTech, we identified that COVID-19-related complaints also continued to increase throughout 2020 and are continuing in 2021.

Sample customer complaint: “I was admitted to the hospital in XXXX. Not only did I have the XXXX and was in the hospital for a long time, I lost my job. I spoke with XXXX and was advised my payments were deferred until XX/XX/2020. I get a credit alert and they have reported me as past due. This is a VIOLATION OF THE CARES ACT AND THE LATE PAYMENT NEEDS TO BE REMOVED!… I was told I was provided protections under the CARES ACT and they failed to adhere to what was offered to me!”

Problem 2: Payment deferrals are not a long-term solution

With many Americans furloughed or unemployed due to the pandemic, banks offer temporary forbearance or forgiveness programs to ease the financial pressure of payments due on loans. Yet, ultimately, are these programs helping customers?

a. When payments were due three months later, customers approved for these programs were often unable to pay.

Sample customer complaint: “My husband recently passed. I am presently in processing for mortgage assistance with my mortgage company. I requested a forbearance because I had been affected by Covid-19. My mortgage company is giving me a hard time even though President Biden has signed an executive order for foreclosures to be put on hold. My property is set for foreclosure sale… I need Help.”

b. Forbearance approvals were misreported, causing delinquencies and plummeting credit scores. Until these issues are repaired, they will create another level of hardship for customers seeking credit.

Sample customer complaint: “I have attached for reference the Forbearance Agreement dated XXXX/2020 along with the Forbearance Letter confirming the forbearance was granted dated XXIXX/2020. This letter specifically states the following – you are not required to make any payments during the forbearance. The three bureaus are reporting the lates in error and it is seriously harming my credit score. These line items need to be removed and/or updated to report accurate information. It is a violation of the Fair Credit Reporting Act to not report accurate information on a credit report.”

Problem 3: Credit bureaus’ inaccurate data is affecting economic recovery

The ongoing problems within credit bureau reporting will continue to create disruptions for economic recovery. Credit bureaus are the central repository of information that all consumers and companies alike depend on, and their veracity is assumed.

“The pandemic has been among the most disruptive long-term events we will see in our lifetimes. Not surprisingly, the shockwaves it sent across the planet were felt deeply in the consumer financial marketplace,” CFPB Acting Director Dave Uejio said in a press release.

Steps Toward Recovery

Using the PositivityTech platform, banks and credit bureaus can see the impact of the pandemic on their customers, and can work together to fix these issues.

You can uncover what your customer complaint data reveals about the risks ahead.

You can understand how to solve the issues your customers are facing.

You can act upon the insights your own data highlights.

Send me an email to gain access to PositivityTech.


Top Reasons Why Banks Pay Monetary Relief

What exactly is monetary relief and when do financial institutions provide it to consumers?

Monetary relief is defined as objective, measurable, and verifiable relief that is provided to the consumer as a direct result of the steps taken or that will be taken in response to a complaint. As of December 2020, CFPB public enforcement actions have resulted in over $12.9 Billion in total consumer relief and fewer than 5% of CFPB customer complaints are resolved with monetary relief. As the new CFPB director focuses on consumer fairness and financial inclusion, how should financial institutions expect monetary relief to play a role?

Acting Director of the CFPB Dave Uejio recently shared one major focus when he stated, “I am going to elevate and expand existing investigations and exams and add new ones to ensure we have a healthy docket intended to address racial equity. This of course means that fair lending enforcement is a top priority and will be emphasized accordingly.”

The PositivityTech® intelligent platform enables you to identify and understand drivers to your biggest pain points — including areas that are not easily found nor analyzed — and can cost you the most. In this case, PositivityTech has identified the small percentage of customer complaints resolved with monetary relief, and can recommend proactive management actions to address these pain points. These actions result in better customer treatment, adherence to regulatory and legal requirements, and improvements in overall business performance.

PositivityTech’s proprietary Severity Score and Bias Index demonstrate:

  • The majority of complaints resolved with monetary relief score in the higher deciles of the PositivityTech Severity Score, indicating severe customer frustration.
  • The Bias Index for complaints resolved with monetary relief is 50% higher than all other company responses to consumers, indicating higher discrimination risk.

Exploring Monetary Relief by Product

Customer complaints resolved with monetary relief are concentrated in the following products:

During the last 90 days, the most significant increase in monetary relief can be found in the money transfer and virtual currency products. The following excerpt from a customer complaint related to money transfer sheds light on the problems that customers face. This customer’s complaint had a high Severity Score and was resolved with monetary relief:

“…I was informed by X that they were closing my account from sending and receiving money anymore and any money in my account will be locked for 180 days. This is unfair and I was given no reason other than what seems to be because my mom was sending me large amounts of money to cover my expenses…”

Exploring Monetary Relief by Issue

Customer complaints resolved with monetary relief are concentrated in the following customer-stated issues:

The PositivityTech proprietary Early Warning Triggers highlight issues to pay attention to. The following two issues triggered are two of the issues that lead to monetary relief resolution.

Competitive Benchmarking: Exploring Monetary Relief by Financial Institution

By comparing different institutions and the percentage of their customers’ complaints resolved with monetary relief, PositivityTech identified that:

  • One financial institution (Bank A) resolves more of its complaints with monetary relief consistently than any other institution.
  • Digital banks, payment companies, and fintechs are increasingly resolving their customers’ complaints with monetary relief.

Identify and Prevent Complaints that Lead to Monetary Relief

PositivityTech gets deep inside the pain points that cost you the most and reveals where you should take action. By turning your customer voices into data, PositivityTech enables you to:

  • Proactively identify which products and issues lead to monetary relief and understand why monetary relief is provided.
  • Prioritize actions to prevent customer frustration and to prevent monetary relief payments.
  • Compare your complaint resolution outcomes with other institutions across the industry.
  • Change policies and procedures to positively impact your bottom line.

With PositivityTech, find out where you stand and take action to improve practices that lead to monetary relief. To learn more, please reach out to me at Marcia.Tal@PositivityTech.com. I look forward to helping you turn negatives into positives.


5 Highlights from 2020

Wishing you a year that’s better than the last, filled with health, happiness, and deep listening — to ourselves and to those around us.

This year, we have all experienced many challenges. As we continue to witness life’s fragility, we are focused on helping companies gain resilience by listening to their customers’ voices. We are proud that our innovations have garnered much attention, and we thank you for being part of our journey.

1. Bias Index: Identifying Discrimination In Our Institutions

Our purpose has always been to ensure that customers’ voices are heard and that companies use their customers’ voices to create important changes. Long before this year, we aimed to predict and prevent bias using customer and employee narratives.

In May, we launched the PositivityTech® Bias Index, an AI predictive model that identifies prejudice within customer and employee complaints and makes it possible for financial institutions to repair products or unjust practices. A few weeks later, the world watched in horror as George Floyd was killed. As protests began, individuals shared their stories of discrimination. Companies pledged to weed out systemic discrimination, and the Bias Index found itself in the spotlight:

2. Understanding The Growing Impact Of COVID-19 On Banks And Customers

Three months into the pandemic, institutions wanted to understand what was most distressing to their customers and mitigate these issues. With more individuals publicizing their complaints than ever before, it was clear that customers were becoming frustrated.

By exploring COVID-19-related complaints using the PositivityTech platform, we found that though customers have continued to turn to their banks for support in times of crisis, their takeaways have been disappointing, which we shared in our July FrameWork. For example, customers have complained that their credit reports are adversely affected even when a financial institution agrees to a delayed payment.

The PositivityTech platform also identified that customers were incorporating language highlighted in the media in their complaints. For example, one customer used George Floyd’s powerful language to share the biases that he faced at his bank, and the current crises’ interconnected impacts on him and his family.

Do you know if your customers are expressing similar complaints? How would you respond?

3. Answering The Need For Better Complaint Categorization

As the world began to adapt to a new normal, we turned our attention to a pain point that executives shared with us both before and during COVID: the need for better customer complaint categorization, which enables them to address root causes. We released PositivityTech’s Categorization solution to bridge the gap between the issues that customers select and what they actually say.

4. Announcing The Inside PositivityTech Benchmark Reports

With the distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine underway, companies are now focused on their reset, which will be rooted in data and analytics. Just last month, we launched The Inside PositivityTech Benchmark Reports, which measure banks’ complaint share relative to other banks. By ingesting customer narratives and extracting critical intelligence, the benchmark report reveals where you’re leading and where you might be losing your edge. The benchmark shares data about your shifting space, including:

  • Comparisons across products and companies,
  • The severity of banks’ complaints,
  • Leading indicators of environmental risks,
  • Potential for bias,
  • The impact of COVID,
  • And important changes over time.

5. Purpose-Driven Leadership

As 2020 ends and 2021 begins, we have reason to be cautiously optimistic. Companies are making changes to combat discrimination, listen to their customers’ voices, and elevate the voices of diverse, purpose-driven leaders. Throughout these uncertain times, we have been proud to share our expertise and knowledge with global institutions, media outlets, and women mentees in the data analytics and financial sectors.

I wish you and your families a happy, healthy, and safe holiday season. In 2021, my hope is that we all turn negatives into positives.

“The world is full of what seem like intractable problems. Often we let that paralyze us. Instead, let it spur you to action.” — Melinda Gates


Announcing The Inside PositivityTech Benchmark Reports

Which competitors do you track daily? Which companies in your space are gaining an unexpected edge? Today, we’re thrilled to announce the Inside PositivityTech Benchmark Report ©, a brand new category of competitive intelligence based on customer narratives, which measures your “complaint share” relative to a benchmark group and the industry. Unlike other reports, the Inside PositivityTech Benchmark Report features:

  • A new category of competitive benchmarking, based on your customers’ narratives
  • Customized logic for creating institutions’ benchmark groups
  • Market comparisons across companies and products over time
  • Industry and market trends based on customers’ voices

Uncovering new competitors in our new reality

COVID-19 has transformed our world, and with it, your market share has changed, too. While 2019 saw stability, external events from the pandemic in 2020 have led to major changes across the industry.

Our proprietary tools ingest customer narratives and extract critical intelligence, making it possible for the Inside PositivityTech Benchmark Reports to reveal the information that institutions need to know about their shifting space. The report highlights comparisons across products and companies, the severity of your complaints, leading indicators of environmental risks, potential for bias, and the impact of COVID — and shows important changes over time.

  • Severity Score: Identifies severe complaints and future risk based on customer narratives.
  • Bias Index: Identifies prejudice within customer and employee complaints and makes it possible to prevent systemic discrimination.
  • Trigger Notifications: Algorithms that reveal leading indicators of environmental risks to enable preemptive management actions.

How to use Inside PositivityTech Benchmark Reports

When you can identify and understand the specific problems described in your customer complaints as compared to your competitors’, you can predict future risks and reveal unexpected opportunities that keep your institution ahead of your competition. There are multiple applications for competitive intelligence derived from your customers’ narratives, including:

  • Internal improvements in processes, features and product development
  • Competitive opportunities and threats
  • External monitoring and strategic investments

With the Inside PositivityTech Benchmark Reports, you will be able to:

1. Identify your partners’ customer pain points in order to improve your collaboration

While partners bring innovation, expertise, scale, and speed to market into products and processes, they also can introduce risks. It is incumbent on your institution to understand and monitor your partners’ customer voices. Evaluating their customer complaints provides you with additional monitoring capabilities.

2. Pinpoint COVID-19 issues, complaints, and resolutions

With PositivityTech® “keyword intelligence” from COVID-19-related customer complaints, you can identify major issues with which your customers are struggling, see how well your institution is resolving issues compared to your competitors, get ahead of future issues, and help your customers through difficult times.

3. Identify changes over time

Every institution can pinpoint another company that may not have seemed like a threat at one point, but then made inroads into their market share. For example, a recent article in Forbes discusses how Chime is currently leading with a 35% share of digital bank checking accounts, as compared to Ally Bank’s 9% share.

With the Inside PositivityTech Benchmark Reports, you will be able to:

4. Uncover your “complaint share”

Monitoring your “complaint share,” a new variable that showcases your customer complaints and competitors’ customer complaints, can protect you from major risks. You can measure your “complaint share” relative to the benchmark group and the industry, track its changes over time, and understand where to apply your attention.

Subscribe to Inside PositivityTech Benchmark Reports

What is your “complaint share”? In today’s fast-changing world, you need to know. You do not want to be surprised when a competitor eases into your leading position. Our cutting-edge Inside PositivityTech Benchmark Reports will give you the critical information to understand where you’re leading and where you might be losing your edge.

Subscribe to our Inside PositivityTech Benchmark Reports now to see how your institution compares to others, based on intelligence from customer narratives. Please email me at marcia.tal@positivitytech.com to gain access to these reports.

Wishing you and your families a happy and healthy Thanksgiving!