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ombudsman news

issue 87

July/August 2010

'a window on the real world'

As I noted in last month's issue, I'm still spending a fair amount of time getting to know a wide range of our stakeholders. I've been particularly struck by how often ombudsman news crops up in these conversations - and it's been encouraging to receive so much positive feedback.

The case studies are particularly popular with all our readers. The chief executive of one large financial services business said 'they're a window on the real world' helping him 'better understand the customer's viewpoint.' The head of another firm said the cases 'serve as a reality check - a valuable prompt to take a close look at the grass roots'. By doing that he can ensure the examples of poor service outlined in some of the cases are not also happening in his own business.

Promoting 'complaints-prevention' - by feeding back information about the complaints we see - has always been an important feature of the ombudsman's work. We do this through ombudsman news, but also at regular meetings with businesses, where we talk through the trends emerging in our casework. We take part, too, in a wide range of seminars, conferences and other events - and of course we make a wealth of information available on our website.

Some businesses still have a fairly narrow view of complaints-handling, with the focus firmly on rules, compliance and procedures. But - increasingly - smarter businesses are taking a broader and more customer-focused approach. Good complaints-handling is a powerful way of generating customer loyalty. Research shows that if a business handles a customer's complaint really well, that customer will think more highly of the business than customers who have never had a complaint.

And the most successful businesses are those that also view complaints as a valuable source of customer insight. By seeing what can be learnt from the complaints they receive, businesses quickly discover what aspects of their operations may need improving. Putting things right then results in a better service all round - for all their customers.

We are keen to increase the amount of information we provide about the numbers and types of complaints we see - to help businesses consider what lessons can be drawn from the data. The ombudsman focus feature in issue 86 was well received by many readers. It presented selected data from our annual review, cut in a slightly different way to show - at a glance - some of the casework figures we are most-frequently asked about during the year.

We are aware that many people would welcome seeing our complaint data more frequently, so in this issue you'll find our complaint figures for the first quarter of the current financial year. From now on, we will publish these figures every quarter, making it easier for everyone to see the numbers and trends as they emerge - rather than having to wait till after the end of each financial year to see them in our annual review. As ever, there's a difficult balance between overwhelming people with information and satisfying those who want a huge amount of detail. We hope we're managing to get it about right. As always, I'd welcome your views on this, as well as on any other aspect of our work.

Natalie Ceeney
chief executive and chief ombudsman

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For printed copies of this or any of our publications, phone 020 7964 0092 or email publications.

ombudsman news gives general information on the position at the date of publication. It is not a definitive statement of the law, our approach or our procedure.

The illustrative case studies are based broadly on real-life cases, but are not precedents. Individual cases are decided on their own facts.