Complaints and Ombuds Techniques

Complaints are a common and increasing aspect of service delivery. People make complaints for a variety of reasons and seek a range of different outcomes. How well organisations manage the expectations of complainants is important in securing successful restoration of the relationship. At the same time, there has been a growth of ombudsman and other alternative dispute resolutions schemes, prompted in part by an EU Directive. They play an increasingly important role in complaint handling standard setting and system improvement.


This module examines themes and issues around managing complaints from the initial organisation level through to approaches in dispute resolution adopted by ombuds schemes, independent complaint handlers and adjudicators. Complaint management will be situated within the ‘dispute resolution spectrum’ and will encourage students to critique different approaches to complaint management and explore how effective complaint management can be achieved in a range of organisations.

The module will also examine consumer behaviour in dispute settings and explore how organisations can learn from complaints. The module will look at the theory, research and practices that underpin inquisitorial and adjudicative ADR mechanisms. This will include comparing procedures employed by different schemes, examining the relationships of ADR schemes with regulatory bodies, understanding the place of ADR schemes in broader legal and constitutional frameworks, and analysing the impact of ombuds and adjudicative ADR schemes on consumers and citizens, and governments and markets.

The module will also look at the practices of these schemes, covering issues such as decision making standards and operating models.

Learning Experience and Learning Outcomes

The module will engage the student in the following types of learning experiences:

  • 75 hours of online discussion and directed learning
  • 125 hours of independent study

In order to engage learners in all of the interaction, tutor support and independent study will be facilitated online and will include the following activities:

  • Online lectures/podcasts
  • Asynchronous online discussions
  • Synchronous chat sessions (using audio, video and/or text means)
  • Case studies
  • Online seminars hosted by external expert
  • Online Quizzes

Learners will be encouraged to set up online special interest groups to enhance collegiality in learning and provide peer support.

The aims of this module are for participants to develop a deep understanding of:

  • how organisations can respond effectively to complaints and how they can learn from complaints while reflecting on consumer behaviour and its consequences for dispute resolution;
  • the approaches to dispute resolution used by ombuds schemes, independent complaint handlers and adjudicators when the complaints at organisation level have failed to resolve the issue in dispute; and
  • the theory, research and practice that underpin inquisitorial and adjudicative ADR mechanisms.

On successful completion of this module the student will be able to:

  • Demonstrate a critical understanding of the theory, principles and practices underpinning effective complaints management and of theory and research into consumer behaviour in dispute situations
  • Critically reflect on consumer dispute behaviour before, during and after dispute situations as well as critically analyse the theory, principles and practices of investigative and adjudicative dispute resolution
  • Identify and critically evaluate various models of independent investigation and adjudication
  • Critically assess the key issues affecting independent investigators and adjudicators and the challenges and opportunities they face
  • Discuss and critically understand the main political, legal and social contexts in which independent investigators and adjudicators work


There are two components of summative assessment.

  • Component 1

Learners will be assessed on their contribution to online discussions. This component is worth up to 30% of the module marks.

  • Component 2

Individual essay of 4,000 words. This component is worth up to 70% of the module marks.


Feedback will be provided on all the online activities as well as the summative assessment.

Cost and Start Date

NB This module will run in September 2020 subject to demand and has a minimum number requirement.

The start date is September with completion by end of January.

Fee for Sept 2020 start: £885

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