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New Ombudsman Boss Wants to Help UK Telcos Retain Customers

Monday, December 3rd, 2018 (2:49 pm) - Score 1,381
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The new CEO and Chief Ombudsman at UK consumer complaints handler firm Ombudsman Services: Communications, Matthew Vickers, has said that he sees his role as helping naughty broadband ISPs and mobile operators to retain more customers (i.e. reducing churn in the sector).

At present Ofcom requires all ISPs to become members of an approved Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) scheme (there are two – CISAS or Ombudsman Services). The schemes are free for consumers to access and designed to supplement (not replace) an ISPs own internal complaints procedure(s), although ISPs have to pay sizeable costs regardless of whether they win or lose a case.

However the ADR process is often seen as a last line of defence for consumers and such schemes are usually only used after a dispute has gone unresolved for 6-8 weeks (i.e. the “Deadlock Letter” stage). Please see our ISP Complaints and Advice section for more information.

Now Ombudsman Services, which last year resolved more than 40,000 telecoms complaints, has had a change of leadership. Outgoing CEO, Lewis Shand-Smith, is being replaced by Matthew Vickers. The new man in charge, a former Foreign Office diplomat and retail industry executive, has been promoted from the position of deputy chief and seems to suggest that he may do things differently.

Matthew Vickers said:

“Fundamentally, the ombudsman model of dispute resolution hasn’t changed in 50 years so it’s ripe for modernisation.

In a digital world where consumers can get problems fixed instantly by complaining to a business on social media, we must embrace change.

We’re doing exactly that, for example by launching a new brand and website and creating a digital, efficient and transparent way of resolving complaints in a new case management system.

We’re engaging with businesses in new and exciting ways, for example by launching new products and delivering actionable data insights.

Our aim is to help businesses improve their complaints-handling process and customer service more generally, so they can retain more customers and ultimately become more successful.”

At this stage it’s unclear precisely how the adoption of a better complaints-handling process at ADR level could realistically be expected to have any tangible impact upon churn, which tends to be driven by a much wider selection of factors than consumer complaints (switching providers to save money etc.). However we salute Matthew’s effort and desire for change.

Ultimately the best way for providers to reduce churn is to keep loyal customers happy with fair pricing, up-to-date package choices (i.e. offering the latest broadband technologies) and good service quality, although this is always easier said than done.

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Mark Jackson
By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he is also the founder of ISPreview since 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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5 Responses
  1. Joe

    (Groan) That statement was full of vacuous PR nothingness.

    I have no idea what practical change, if any, this involves.

  2. AnotherTim

    “… consumers can get problems fixed instantly by complaining to a business on social media…”
    If that were true we wouldn’t need any form of ADR. Of course, in general it isn’t true.

    • Neb

      Reminds me of my recent Yodel Customer experience, where the only real response I got was social media… but that was just window dressing only and no actual action of any kind…

  3. Meadmodj

    ADR data is available to the providers so they all know where their issues are and the root cause is. We should not need further services. Good that we have the process but we do not need to pay for consultancy as well.

    Providers are working to reduce support costs and should simply have a simple process for the customer to confirm their issue has been resolved and avoid such ADR cases.

  4. joseph

    His comment sounds more scripted then the call centres of certain ISPs which are often complained about. Not really a shock when you google him.

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