How to prevent a customer going to the Ombudsman with a complaint

Wade Robertson 01 Apr 2023
Written by Wade Robertson

If a complaint isn’t resolved within 56 days, the customer is informed about their rights. This means they can take their complaint to the energy Ombudsman to help resolve their dispute.

Customers can also seek support from the Ombudsman when their complaint is “deadlocked” i.e. the supplier believes they have done all they can and have offered their final resolution which the customer does not agree with.

What are the problems?

Complaints that reach the ombudsman have an associated fee of £300 per case.

The main problems can fall into two categories:

Going early (pre-final resolution)

  • Front and back-office processing of complaints can delay the resolution and increase a complaint ageing
  • The customer journey for complaints can be poor with no expectations set with the customer for their resolution
  • Customers lose faith and when they find other support is available they reach out due to failures of the supplier
  • Ongoing issues that aren’t resolved can lead to the customer approaching the Ombudsman without a complaint being raised

Going when deadlocked

  • When the energy Ombudsman rule in favour of the customer, suppliers will be required to complete further actions to resolve the complaint. The most common being increased ex-gratia payments meaning further costs to the supplier
  • Multiple failings usually result in customers losing trust in a supplier, therefore they don’t believe in the resolution provided. The customer could also be looking to a 3rd party to get an outside view on the resolution

What are the solutions?

To prevent customers approaching the ombudsman, you should aim to resolve a

customer’s complaint within 56 days. By establishing connections between front and back office teams this optimises processing of the complaints and facilitates faster resolutions.

Additionally, by setting expectations with the customer and aligning processes to those of the Ombudsman standards will also help minimise customer complaints reaching the Ombudsman. For example, customers who are kept informed of their complaint progress are less likely to involve the Ombudsman, and if processes are aligned to the Ombudsman standards customers are more likely to agree with the resolution.

Some cases can be resolved before the Ombudsman review the complaint. To take advantage of this you could look into offering extra compensation to satisfy the customers’ needs, resulting in less cost per case avoiding the full fee.

We hope you have found our series of short articles focusing on complaints beneficial and insightful. If you have any topics you would like us to discuss in future posts, please let us know.

If you would like to find out more about our complaints consultancy service, contact Joseph Cooper, Wade Robertson, or Ian Barker.

Wade Robertson


Wade specialises in Transformation, Value Creation and Project Management, helping clients to identify and deliver on opportunities of significant value.

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