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ombudsman news

issue 130

November/December 2015

knowing what matters

All of a sudden, it seems, the festive season’s come round again – and with it, the traditional pleasure, or ordeal, of planning and buying gifts. Finding the right present – something personal and meaningful, whether your budget’s £5 or £50 – is certainly a test of how well you know the person you’re buying for.

Aside from navigating the likes and dislikes of in-laws, nieces and friends, there’s also the practical question of how to get what you’ve decided to buy. It might be quicker to do everything online. But is it always better? I often think there’s no substitute for buying in person – so you can really see what you’re getting.

Of course, what people want is something any successful organisation will be thinking about all year round. For financial businesses, it’s part of developing products that match customers’ lifestyles and aspirations. And from brokering an insurance policy to underwriting a mortgage, getting to grips with a customer’s individual circumstances helps to ensure the right decision’s made.

In the same way as gift-buying, acting on assumptions might be a quick fix – for example, providing a service, or making a decision, based on generalisations about customers of a certain age. But as this issue’s case studies highlight, there’s a good chance that – just as with a gift – the outcome won’t feel personalised or fair.

At the ombudsman, we’re not in the business of thinking up new products or services. In general, our informal approach to resolving problems has stood the test of time. But that’s not to say we don’t need to understand people’s lives – not only the range of individual preferences, but how these are changing with time. It’s a fundamental part of planning for the future – and making sure we remain relevant and accessible.

For example, we’ve seen a significant increase in people using mobile devices to find out about us or contact us. So we need to reflect this in the service we offer – while bearing in mind that some people still prefer a face-to-face conversation.

We want to hear what businesses want and need from us too. In ombudsman focus, we share some of the feedback we’ve received over the last few months – and I’ve asked the right people here to respond.

In the next week or so, we’ll also begin to consult on our plans and budget for the year ahead. As a public service – but one that’s funded by the businesses we cover – there’s a wide interest in our work. I’m looking forward to hearing our stakeholders’ different perspectives on our approach to the challenges ahead.

And I’m confident that the better we understand these perspectives, the better we’ll be able to make plans and choices that feel fair to everyone who relies on us.

Caroline Wayman

Caroline Wayman
Caroline Wayman
chief ombudsman

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.