All consumers know that they should complain when they receive bad service, but a lot of the time they let issues slide or, worse, have no idea where to turn to for help.
This is reflected in the latest research from Ombudsman Services’ Consumer Action Monitor, which has found that although 55 million complaints were made last year, 75 million issues were ignored. Less than half of issues actually result in a complaint to the company, or a third party, which is a worrying on-going trend. Additional research in our core energy and communications sectors demonstrates that only 5-7% of those who can use our services do so, and this proportion falls amongst the groups likely to be more vulnerable.
Our study also showed that apathy with the complaints process is widespread, with 28 per cent per cent of consumers saying that they did not complain because they just could not be bothered. So how can we engage with consumers and encourage them to complain?
We recognise that more needs to be done to ensure that consumers are aware of what an ombudsman is and how it can help – at the moment 16 per cent do not know what an ombudsman is, and a further 31 per cent have only a vague idea of what it does.
In order to raise awareness, and make it easier for people to complain, Ombudsman Services has embarked on a complaints roadshow, visiting towns and cities and giving people the opportunity to speak to representatives face-to-face. The proposition is to make our service accessible and to meet people where ‘they are at’ in local town centre shopping centres.
The roadshow launched in Blackpool back in January, when Emmerdale actress Gemma Oaten led a chant to raise attention and encourage consumers in the area to complain. The roadshow team was then available to help anyone with questions about their rights, or how to complain.
Since then, the ‘Ombudsvan’ has travelled to 12 locations, with more to come throughout the spring. The team has spoken to hundreds of people about their complaints, and helped many to register their energy and communications disputes with the team there and then.
We have been able to help many people with complaints make their voices heard, and have introduced Ombudsman Services – and ombudsmen in general – to consumers who may not have otherwise been aware of the service we provide.
Ensuring that consumers are aware of both their consumer rights, and their ability to get their complaints resolved by an ombudsman, is crucial if we are to encourage greater uptake of our service.