December 5th 2023

ABDO OCCS Review 22-23

At a period of time that will likely be best remembered as a transitory phase that took the public from “social distancing” to the “cost-of-living crisis”, 2022-23 may well mark the beginning of what is considered “the new normal”. All buzzwords aside, there can be little doubt that the past couple of years have been defined more by the rise of inflation than the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. Causing a considerable shift in terms of consumer behaviour, this altogether new trend has challenged the optical sector in a unique way. More specifically, optical practices are lately faced with complaints which are rooted distinctly in financial anxieties, causing them to be far less accepting of goodwill gestures as a form of resolution. Quantifying and reviewing all of the work that has been carried out by the OCCS, the latest Annual Report explores these emerging complaint types as well as detailing the work that the service is carrying out to make the optical sector perform more efficiently and effectively.

Receiving 1588 complaints which fell into remit between 1st April 2022 and 31st March 2023, the OCCS remains as in-demand as it was last year. Indeed, 2020-21 marked a 21.5% rise in complaints submitted to the OCCS when compared to the previous period. With this data in mind, it’s safe to conclude that the service has maintained its position as an effective resource for those seeking to settle a dispute regarding their experience with the optical sector. All of the data surrounding these complaints can be found in the latest Annual Report, with insights provided around not only the types of complaints received, but also how they are managed. By providing resolution rates as well as in depth commentary around this data, it is possible for optical professionals to easily understand emerging trends that will likely affect their practice, if they haven’t already.

Among many of the standout findings in the latest Annual Report is that of the complaints resolved using mediation between 2022-23, the greatest proportion were attributed to the category of Goods & Services. A 10% increase when compared with the previous year, this shift helps to illustrate by way of data the consequences that the cost-of-living crisis is having on the sector. Further to this, the analysis performed in the Annual Report reveals how a greater number of people complaining over goods and services suggests that there is a lower tolerance for imperfections and higher expectations than there ever was before. This view is supported by previous yearly data that illustrates how complaints relating to Goods and Services have grown by 20% over the past two years.

Another significant area which features in the Annual Report has to do with complaints surrounding fitness to practice. More explicitly, the GOC remodelled the FtP triage process last year, further embedding Acceptance Criteria which has led the OCCS teams to work more closely with the GOC FtP teams. This resulted in the OCCS supporting the GOC  to develop and refine an effective approach which combines the fundamental public protection role of the FtP process with proportionate resolution and a complainant focused process. This has ultimately confirmed the value of the OCCS as a service performing a vital role in supporting proportionate and effective complaint resolution. A more thorough exploration of this relationship and the progress being made in this area can be accessed in the report.

In addition to providing a compelling review of the current state of the optical sector, the latest Annual Report also illustrates how the OCCS is growing as a service. From data on the number of complaints which fall into remit and are successfully resolved, to comparisons to previous years, the report ultimately serves a double service by demonstrating how more and more consumers are turning to the OCCS whenever local resolution fails.

From high level to granular insights into the ways that the service is accessed, as well as the kinds of unique complaints which are emerging in the sector, the report ultimately helps to summarise the progress that is being made and the importance of mediation in a time when consumer sentiment is particularly challenging.

A valuable read for all optical professionals, the report undoubtedly serves as both a temperature check as well as a forecast for trends which will continue to affect the sector at a macro level.

To obtain a full copy of the OCCS Annual Report 2023, be sure to email me – sclark@nockolds.co.uk Alternatively, visit our website https://www.opticalcomplaints.co.uk/ to find out  more about all of the work and services carried out by the OCCS.

 

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