The Jamaica National Member Ombudsman

The Jamaica National Member Ombudsman

The customer champion within the organisation

Observer writer

Sunday, January 17, 2021

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When the word ombudsman appears, immediate reference is usually made to the country's political ombudsman. Yet there are other ombudsmen around even in corporate Jamaica.

The Jamaica National (JN) Member Ombudsman (MO) has been an important part of its operations for many years. To date, they have had two, with Claudine Allen, who also serves in the capacity of general manager for the JN Foundation, currently holding the post of JN Member Ombudsman.

Speaking at a recent Jamaica Observer Business Forum, Allen said the role of MO was created to remember the impact on people when the business decisions are being made in the company.

“We (Jamaica National) remember that yes, we want to make a profit but, first we want to provide a service and we want to provide the service well, we want to cover our costs and then give a good return to our members. This is the primary focus of Jamaica National as a mutual organisation,” Allen said.

With the growth and development of the JN Group, the role of the MO became pivotal.

“We began to look at the relationship with people across the group and started to develop plans to better interact with our clients and this position took on new meaning and endeavour with the advent of COVID-19.

“The JN circle 'Catch Up' was started soon after the pandemic came to Jamaica, where people received information on the special services JN was offering such as the moratoria on certain loans and in many cases redoing mortgages to assist our customers in dealing with the fallout from COVID-19.

“While we at JN looked to see how we could assist our customers, the Catch Up sessions expanded to include the important aspect of dealing with the COVID-19 from the medical standpoint.

“During our Catch Up sessions, we had doctors talking about COVID-19, we were all learning about it together as we catered to the human side of members, which is the primary focus of the JN Member Ombudsman,” Allen said.

As with any aspect of business, there is always a flip side which always include complains from members.

“We at JN always try to get it right all the time but sometimes it goes wrong and when it goes wrong, we give the entity the opportunity to fix it first and then if the fix is not satisfactory, the MO gets into action to find the remedies,” Allen said.

Allen refers to herself in the role of MO as the customer champion, “I champion issues and I champion people as well.”

Another of the responsibilities of the MO is to collaborate with customers through community involvement.

“We have our JN Circle, which is a network of JN members who are empowered to make a difference in their communities.

“People come together and what they have in common is a relationship with Jamaica National, they come together and they look to identify issues they want to change in their communities,” Allen shared.

This initiative was, however, impacted negatively by COVID-19 which forced the MO and her team to take the JN circle to virtual space.

During COVID-19, a members' welfare fund was put in place with each circle receiving a portion of funds.

“We said to them [various JN circles] look around your community and see how you can help. They identified nurses, teachers, some circles decided to use the money to install sanitisers at police stations, some circles built hand washing stations at schools,” Allen said with a smile of satisfaction on her face.

She stressed how important it was to have their presence being felt in the communities through a hands on process instead of being in a boardroom and making decisions.

“As we developed our philanthropic activities, we took our members along with us for the journey,” the MO said.

When asked if there was a parallel to the political ombudsman and the JN Member Ombudsman, Allen responded: “Only in the sense that an ombudsman functions as the champion for somebody who is uncomfortable. That is the only parallel, so it is not politically related but, the concept of it, in that I look out for people. I make sure people are being served well and where there is discomfort I fix it.”

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