An officer from The Property Ombudsman Scheme (TPO) and a member of staff from Northwood recently switched roles for a week in order to gain greater experience of each other’s positions within the property industry.
Gemma Currie, first contact evaluation officer at TPO, spent a week at Northwood in Fareham and Portsmouth while Lauren O’Neill, complaints and legal support at Northwood, spent the week between the Complaints Operations Department and the Assessment Resolution Team at TPO.
Currie spent her week learning about how letting agents work and how Northwood handles complaints.
And O’Neill spent the week learning about the kinds of grievances handled by TPO on a daily basis.
The job swap was instigated by outgoing Property Ombudsman Christopher Hamer as part of TPO’s ongoing campaign to raise standards within the industry.
“It is important to emphasise the need for agents to deal promptly and professionally with complaints and equally it is hugely beneficial for my office to be aware of the practical issues agents face when trying to resolve matters themselves,” says Hamer.
TPO’s Gemma Currie says it was extremely interesting to see dispute cases from an agent’s point of view.
“Minimising the chances of issues escalating is what we at TPO strive for, so it was reassuring to see how thorough Northwood’s procedure was and how much work goes into resolving cases in the first instance,” she says.
Eric Walker, Northwood’s managing director, adds: “We were absolutely delighted to take part in this initiative. TPO has provided the industry with an immense service, which we agreed would be enhanced by demonstrating front line issues experienced by agents.
Walker added that his staff member, O’Neill, had brought back some excellent ideas and that the initiative had helped Northwood to gain a better understanding of the challenges faced by the Ombudsman’s team.
Hamer concludes: “It would be extremely helpful to visit all TPO members so we can educate staff further and continue to provide relevant and practical guidance on best practice. Unfortunately, that is a practical impossibility, but if more members were interested in an exchange, subject to resources, I would certainly consider it.”
Last month Hamer announced that he would be standing down as Property Ombudsman in November after nine years in the post.