An ombudsman is a person who acts as a trusted intermediary between an organization and some internal or external constituency while representing not only but mostly the broad scope of constituent interests.
An ombudsman looks into complaints against an organization and its officials and helps resolve them by mediating fair settlements out of court.
Many private companies, universities, non-profit organizations and government agencies also have an ombudsman (or an ombuds office) to serve internal employees, and managers and/or other constituencies. These ombudsman roles are structured to function independently, by reporting to the CEO or board of directors, and do not serve any other role in the organization. They are beginning to appear around the world within organizations, sometimes as an alternative to anonymous hot-lines in countries where these are considered inappropriate or are illegal, and in addition to hot lines because ombuds offices typically receive many more calls than do hot lines.
In 2008, Hindustan Unilever had roped in an ombudsman to deal with consumer complaints that could spill over into the courts, in a first of its kind initiative by an Indian company. It was restricted to end consumers of HUL products. July 29, 2008 Hindustan Unilever Ltd appointed Mr Justice M.S. Rane (Retd) as the ombudsman for consumer disputes redressal. This was the first time an FMCG company had appointed an independent and expert mediation procedure for the benefit of its consumers.
The ombudsman further augmented the efforts of the company’s consumer care helpline services – Levercare.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.