What is an Ombudsman? In the UK we typically use the Swedish word “Ombudsman”. Rooted in Old Norse, the term means “representative”. The term Ombuds is also now used, particularly in the United States.
Some Ombudsman offices protect the rights of commercial customers – everything from utilities and telecoms to furniture. Financial Services are of course well regulated by such schemes, from banks and insurers to accountants and auditors. But the number of Ombudsman schemes a citizen can call on to fight their corner on government services is staggering: health, housing, children’s welfare, elderly people’s wellbeing, local government services, social care, prisons, armed forces…
What most Ombudsman have in common are aims which include accessibility for all service users in the sector they serve/regulate, usually free of charge to the complainant. A court of law can be out of reach for many people as a means of civil recourse - the services of an Ombudsman on the other hand come at no cost to the user and the outcome is not reliant on who has the better lawyer. Ombudsman principles are centred around fairness and proportionality, not technicalities.
Ombuds principles follow variations on these six themes:
- Getting it right
- Being customer focused (consumer or service user)
- Being open and accountable
- Acting fairly and proportionately
- Putting things right
- Seeking continuous improvement.
In the times in which we live, pressures are only mounting; as people increasingly live in fear and frustration, this often presents as anger. Sifting through emotions to get to the facts is a skill in itself. Consistency in how cases are assessed is more essential than ever to ensure fair outcomes. Ideally, a resolution can be reached that is satisfactory to all parties, even where misunderstandings or miscommunications are in play.
For us, every day is Ombuds day.
Workpro is proud to support Ombudsman, Commissioners and Regulators in managing complaints and associated case work. We support Ombuds offices worldwide with case management systems that make it easier to implement and track processes built around the six principles. Plus, robust audit trails and comprehensive reporting.
Our customers (users of Workpro case management software) are finding ways of empowering their own frontline colleagues to find resolutions to less complex issues with minimum cost and delay. Others are harnessing technology to offer service portals where service provider, service user and the Ombuds Office can co-ordinate, collaborate, hopefully conclude a case quickly and reasonably.
If you would like to learn more about how Workpro can support Ombuds offices, contact us today.
The service that Ombudsman provide is marked each year on Ombuds Day. Here’s to the Ombuds community this Ombuds Day, and every day throughout the year.