A series of interviews by The Complaining Cow
Caroline Wayman undertook this interview when she was the Chief Ombudsman for the Financial Ombudsman. She left the role 16 April 2021, after 22 years in the service and nearly 7 years as chief executive.
1) Generally, do you complain to a company regarding a faulty item?
I will if it really bothers me, but some organisations make it hard, so I don’t always manage to. But I know from our work at the Financial Ombudsman Service that it’s important to let a business know if something hasn’t gone well. It gives them a chance to try and put things right and lets them know where there might be a wider issue they need to look into for other customers.
2) How much does the likely redress have to be before you will
complain and why?
I think customer service is much more than the monetary value of something. Someone may not have lost out financially – for example – if a business has been rude to them but it’s still important for a business to understand the impact that had on their customer. An apology and an explanation can go a really long way to putting things right.
3) How well do you know your legal rights (Consumer Rights Act, different sectors regulations etc.)
My day job means that I am fairly well-versed on my rights. When deciding complaints our service has to decide complaints on the basis of what’s fair and reasonable in all the circumstances by taking into account the law, rules and regulations and good practice in the industry. This gives us a more flexible approach than deciding cases based on just the strict legal approach and means we have an understanding of different regulations – some of which cut across different sectors – not just financial services– like the Consumer Rights Act.
4) If you receive service over and above good do you give feedback?
Absolutely! I think it’s really important to let people know when they have made your experience special or even just helped put your mind at rest during a time when you might be getting in touch because something has gone wrong. At the ombudsman service I am often copied into emails from people who have taken the time to reach out and share when they have received a great level of customer service. For a business to know the impact their great customer service has had on someone is so rewarding and I know how much that helps motivate and engage staff to be the best they can be.
5) If you receive poor service how many people do you tell (include
your social media followers too!)
I think like most people, if I receive poor service I will tell my friends and family. I don’t tend to share my experience using social media but that’s more because I tend to use social media for staying in touch with people rather than anything else.
6) If you receive good services how many people do you tell?
Again, I tend to mention it to my friends and family but one of the things I’ve been trying to do more of is tell the person who has provided the good service and make their manager aware as I know that can really make someone’s day and helps contribute to their overall development. As a chief executive I really value hearing both the bad and the good as I believe you can learn from both equally.
7) If you don’t really complain or it has to be a significant amount
in question before you will, what stops you from complaining?
The thing I find most frustrating is when a business makes it difficult to complain – perhaps by not publishing their complaints process on their website, or making you tell 10 different people what’s happened before being able to speak to someone who can help. I know from some of the complaints we see about financial businesses at the ombudsman service that’s a frustration which is shared by other people too and can sometimes make what actually started out as a simple issue a bigger problem to resolve. It’s a shame that something like that –which should be so easy to get right – can put people off trying to get a problem sorted out.
8) What do you think of using social media to complain?
I think it’s great when consumers have a range of ways to contact a business in a way that’s most convenient for them. I don’t tend to use social media for complaining but I think it’s been really interesting to see how consumers have been instrumental in making that a channel for complaining that businesses have needed to respond to and has now become the norm.
9) Is customer service/being able to gain redress a factor when
deciding where to purchase an item
At the ombudsman service we see first-hand the difference consumer protections can make. With that in mind I always try to make sure I purchase things in a way that means I might be more protected should things go wrong, for example I make sure I book holiday flights using an ATOL holder, make all purchases over £100 on my credit card and try to choose businesses which are regulated and covered by an ADR scheme just in case anything goes wrong.
10) Do you ever contact a CEO of a company? If so at what point in the complaint process?
I tend to follow a business’s complaint procedure as that’s usually the best way of getting a complaint to the right person to look into. Having said that I would contact a CEO directly as a last resort if my service complaint wasn’t being dealt with appropriately. As a CEO myself ensuring we provide a good level of service is a fundamental commitment that I want to make sure we always strive to meet and continually improve on. People’s idea of what good customer service looks like continually evolves so it’s important that all businesses continue to adapt to meet those expectations – and hopefully exceed them too.
11) If you have ever used an ADR scheme (ombudsman/mediation/arbitrator)
or gone to Small Claims Court tell us about it.
I’ve never needed to do that myself but I think it’s great that we live in a country where we have a range of consumer protections and regulations in place as well as organisations that are there to step in and help if needed.
Read others in the series here
About Caroline Wayman
Caroline was the Chief Ombudsman & Chief Executive of the Financial Ombudsman Service – the organisation which can sort out complaints between financial businesses and their customers.
Caroline joined the Financial Ombudsman Service in 2000 and has helped to lead the organisation through substantial change. She was appointed chief ombudsman & chief executive in July 2014 and left 22 April 2021. She was also an experienced member of the executive team, joining it in 2011 as principal ombudsman and legal director.
Caroline was called to the bar and spent her early career working in the insurance industry, before joining the Insurance Ombudsman Bureau in 1999. Outside of the Financial Ombudsman service, Caroline was appointed to the board of the Crown Prosecution Service in June 2018.
Help with your complaints
If you need help with complaining effectively and making sure you are never fobbed off. GET THE BOOK! How To Complain: The ESSENTIAL Consumer Guide to Getting REFUNDS, Redress and RESULTS!
The Complaining Cow free support for businesses
Join the Facebook Group Managing Complaints with Compassion and Integrity A private group where you can give and get support, advice and share good practice on how to improve complaint handling.
Free download to help you reduce risk when dealing with complaints from vulnerable customers.
The Complaining Cow Services
To see how The Complaining Cow can help you prevent and handle complaint see Services.