Monday, September 01, 2008

Best Marketing Practice : Customer Ombudsman

Best Marketing Practice #2

HUL has introduced a unique practice in India by launching a Customer Ombudsman. In July the company appointed a retired Justice Mr M S Rane as the customer ombudsman. It is for the first time that an Indian FMCG company has appointed an ombudsman for customer grievances.

Ombudsman are usually officials who are charged with the responsibility of representing the public by investigating and addressing grievances and complaints of the public. ( Wikipedia).

The current move was a part of the Lever Care initiative of the company which was started in 2007. Through Lever Care , the company wanted to provide a single point of contact for addressing consumer complaints and feedback .

The Lever Care works through a system of call centers and designated officials who will handle the complaint management process. The customers are encouraged to contact the Lever Care numbers/email etc in case of a grievance.

According to the company, the complaint pack will be replaced by the company with a new one . Then the complaint will be processed for further action.

According to the press release, those complaints which could not be resolved through Lever Care will be routed to the Ombudsman who in turn will investigate the complaint .The decision of the mediator will be binding on the company and not on the consumer.

I was intrigued by this news. Why should an FMCG company put so much pain in the complaint management process. I was under the impression that FMCG companies will not be facing much complaints compared to consumer durable companies and service firms.

According to a report in Livemint , HUL has around 200 cases in various courts against it ( I was surprised ). Court cases can take away lot of time energy and money from the company. HUL hopes that such an alternative will help both the customers and the company to handle complaints and grievances quickly.
I think its a good proactive move by the company to make things easier for the consumer to address his grievances. I think its a best practice because its usually a nightmarish experience for a customer to get his problem addressed. Ombudsman helps genuine customers to get a speedy unbiased redressal.

Secondly HUL really doesn't need such a mechanism when compared to other businesses.Most of the products are of high quality, less priced and the service element in its products are negligible. Still the fact that the company has invested its time and energy in reaching out to the customers is quite laudable.