Ombudsman under pressure: are your caseworkers overstretched?
by Workpro Case Management Software on March 1, 2022
Complaints are at an all-time high in the UK, and thanks to the cost-of-living crisis and ongoing supply issues, experts predict that the level of customer complaints will rise throughout 2022. Consumers are more likely to complain about sub-standard products and services when money is tight, and they are stressed.
COVID 19 and the lockdowns that came with it caused many companies to struggle to serve customers well. Unfortunately, problems at many places continue, with companies finding it harder to meet customer expectations thanks to delays and restrictions on their supplies and staff absences.
Unsurprisingly, this is impacting the case management levels Ombudsman organisations are having to deal with. For example, the Housing Ombudsman has seen a 53% rise in complaints.
This can mean an unsustainable workload for complaint handlers, leading to burnout and potential mistakes. According to research, 71% of customer service agents are considering quitting – this could trickle down to Ombudsman organisations if they don't give staff the right tools to do their jobs efficiently.
Outdated case management tools increase Ombudsman workload
We are often approached by case management teams who are using "homegrown" databases, spreadsheets, CRMs, ticketing systems or other outdated tools to manage their cases. They come to us because they find them labour intensive, a security risk and error-prone. Above all, they are struggling with reporting, with no overall picture of caseload and outcomes, affecting their ability to analyse and learn from complaints.
With the pressure Ombudsman are under, these outdated tools make their lives even harder. What can they do about this?
- Eliminate duplication
Ombudsman may deal with similar case types – Staff Attitude for example. Case managers need to follow consistent processes and write similar, but not identical, letters and emails. However, complaints involve people, sometimes vulnerable individuals, with all the complexity and sensitivity that can entail.
Specialist case management software eliminates duplication of work (by using letter templates and standard set tasks, for example) while allowing the caseworker the scope to personalise their response. It guides staff along the correct process, clearly showing who should do what, and when.
- Ensure accuracy
Overworked employees mean tired employees, and we all make mistakes when we are tired. It is very easy to introduce errors when using spreadsheets, for example – a hidden column missed when sorting data, misspellings of case types, accidental deletions, missing required data etc.
Ombudsman case management software includes mandatory fields drop-down lists within an agreed workflow, avoiding errors and ensuring Ombudsman maintain the accuracy of the information they are storing.
- Enable collaboration
With hybrid offices and more permanent home workers, working together is more challenging. Caseworkers can't just pop their head over the filing cabinet and ask what the status of certain cases are. It is easy to lose track of cases, assume that someone else is working on them, or simply miss a case because of incorrect classification or accidental deletion.
Ombudsman have a duty to consumers that is often a legal obligation, and they simply cannot afford for this to happen. Your caseworkers need to be able to securely log in to a system to see what is going on, where their colleagues tasks are at, and which cases need extra attention. Shared spreadsheets and other tools just do not provide this as well as case management software.
- Access the big picture
If data is stored in different places or includes inaccurate information, it is impossible to get an overall picture of where an individual case is, let alone all the cases an Ombudsman is dealing with. It can also lead to more of those cases falling through the cracks because management doesn't have an accurate picture of where cases are.
Ombudsman need automated reports and snapshot views of their cases, with tasks correctly assigned and easy to view. Case management software ensures accurate data is stored in one place, with outcomes and other pertinent data categorised in a meaningful way for analysis and reporting.
Why Workpro case management software?
We have been designing solutions for Ombudsman for nearly two decades. We are familiar with the issues they face and have seen just about every type of case they need to manage. Workpro is a complete case management solution used by many Ombudsman and Commissioners throughout the UK and worldwide. It is the leading Ombudsman solution because it is case management software designed with Ombudsman for Ombudsman.
"Workpro empowers us to do the things we need to do as an organisation and as individuals. It mirrors our approach to casework. You are free to use your own initiative while keeping to the things that have to be done. It's so flexible but we can really funnel use of the system through validation and field labels. Workpro allows us to be as consistent and directive as we want to be." Chris Harrison, Performance and Business Information Analyst, Housing Ombudsman Service
The next evolution in complaints management
We are currently seeing an increased focus on improvements to stakeholder interactions; to reduce caseworker admin burden while improving the complainant experience.
Some of our Ombudsman customers are looking to go beyond a standard online web form – using either 'intelligent' web forms or self-serve portals to capture, validate and part-process complaints.
Ombudsman receive many complaints and inquiries out of their jurisdiction and spend a lot of time signposting people to other organisations. A well-designed webform can ‘triage’ complaints on your website, guiding the complainant through an easy validation and submission process,. The Workpro Webform ensures valid cases are automatically sent to the primary Workpro case management system. The case record is then pre-populated to save any duplication of effort.
The next evolution is an online portal – a space where complainants and other stakeholders can submit and track cases, upload documents and securely message caseworkers. Caseworkers can request action (e.g. for evidence to be submitted), and the portal user can easily track any tasks they need to complete.
Workpro Connect is a bespoke module that we created for the Housing Ombudsman Service. It is an intuitive, easy to use interface which ensures:
- Improved communications with your stakeholders
- Interact with portal users throughout the lifetime of the case
- Real-time updates for all stakeholders
- Tight integration with Workpro eliminates duplication and all stakeholder's activity is available for reporting and analysis.
Contact us to find out how Workpro can better support your case management.