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Ombudsman Judi Jones

A final message from Ombudsman Judi Jones

As my last month as Ombudsman comes to an end, I am excited to be returning home to family (including a new grandson) in New Zealand. I am also incredibly sad to be saying goodbye to my TIO colleagues and friends and the Australian telco industry.

My time as Ombudsman has been both challenging and rewarding – in almost equal measure! But every challenge has presented an opportunity to learn, adapt, and grow.

When I started in 2016, we had reduced our complaint handling resourcing in response to a five year decline in complaints. We needed to rebalance the organisation to be really focused on delivering our fair, independent, and accessible service. We changed our organisational structure, and fundamentally shifted to empower our people and bring out the best in them.

The second organisational shift in 2019 gave us the opportunity to re-invest in our work in policy and systemic issues, and in community engagement and outreach. This helped us to improve outcomes for consumers and members, and lead and shape the public debate.

Over the last six years, demand for our services has been driven by changes in infrastructure, innovations in telco products and services, extreme weather events, and then a pandemic. We have continued to focus on delivering our service and establish best practice in complaint handling. And I am truly proud of what we have achieved as an organisation.

The years ahead will continue to present more opportunities for the TIO to evolve by learning, adapting and growing. As an organisation, the present has exciting prospects – we have just opened our new office in Perth and extended our operating hours so we can be more accessible to more consumers; we’re in the midst of launching a new video call service for people who communicate through Auslan; and we’re evaluating what fairness means in an ombudsman context and how we can be better at what we do.

I am delighted with the Board’s appointment of Cynthia Gebert to the role of Ombudsman. Cynthia has been a colleague for many years and from my experience working with her, I know she has the skills, knowledge, and passion to ensure the TIO continues to thrive in its next phase.

My parting words of advice for the telco industry is to listen to their customers, and truly listen, to hear what their customers are experiencing and learn from that. The role of the Ombudsman is to take each complaint and recognise its place in the larger narrative, and we do this by sharing our data and insights. But complaint handlers have a great source information right there in front of them. I believe by really listening to customers who have a complaint, telcos will be able to truly harness the value of complaints and take their service to new levels.

And to my colleagues and friends I have made on this six-year journey, I say thank you. What I will miss most is the people - each and every person at the TIO has impacted me in some way, whether it be through questioning, agreeing, disagreeing, challenging or supporting me.

Taking on this role has been a life-changing experience. It was tough in more ways than I ever contemplated, but in the same stride, more rewarding.

For now though, it’s time for a break.

It’s been a pleasure working with you all.

E noho rā (farewell)

Ombudsman, Judi Jones