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The death of customer service

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 charliesdad 31 Aug 2022

I've recently moved house, and had to deal with lots of large businesses; banks, pension companies, insurers, utilities and delivery companies.

When you are buying things from these companies, they couldn't be nicer or more helpful, with salespeople and advisors galore, happy to help 24/7.

But heaven help the customer with a problem;

  1. Help lines which are not answered or go to voicemail. (How is it possible that EVERY call centre in the country is permanently experiencing "unusually high call volumes"?).
  2. Help centres which use automated call handling to fob you off.
  3. Call centre operators who stick rigidly to the script.
  4. Chatbots on Websites which just regurgitate the FAQ's.
  5. Websites which hide their companies address, telephone number, contact details and complaints process so well it's virtually impossible to find.

I get there in the end, but it often takes literally hours of effort to do something as simple as get a refund for a fraudulent transaction. (Thanks HSBC).

Can anyone suggest practical/legal/amusing ways of punishing these companies?

 Dax H 31 Aug 2022
In reply to charliesdad:

Don't deal with them in the first place, I refuse to buy anything unless the website has an address and phone number that is easy to find. 

1
 ian caton 31 Aug 2022
In reply to charliesdad:

Often really easy to contact via twitter. Free get response in minutes. 

1
 henwardian 31 Aug 2022
In reply to charliesdad:

Yup, customer service died a while back.

The fundamental problem is that customers have spent decades selecting for the lowest price as the only criteria when buying absolutely anything. The logical conclusion of this process is a marketplace filled with companies that go by the Ryanair customer service motto ("f*** you") because not staffing their call centres and making refunds and compensation incredibly difficult to access are valid ways of reducing costs. We also get s*** quality food in the supermarkets by the same process - the concept of paying for quality seems rare enough now that shops offering such do not have a market to support them.

I find that you can often get a phone number or e-mail or postal address more quickly by Googling it than by trying to find it on a company's website.

At the end of the day, this is the world we now live in and you just have to adjust expectations down to rock bottom and accept that if you have a problem you want to resolve, it's going to take weeks of phone calls and e-mails to resolve it. On the odd occasion you will get something sorted with a single 20-minute phone call and find you get a nice mellow dopamine hit (shout out to HP Instant Ink who managed to do this for me today). (no shout out to HMRC with whom I gave up after 90 minutes in the holding queue).

The other thing to remember is that if it's an issue that is just not important because it's for a tiny amount of money, it's not worth your time trying to fix it, so just cross it off the list as a bad episode, forget it and move on. I got scammed out of about 10 euros a few years ago for a cheapo reversing sensor kit, I didn't bother to try chasing after the initial contact with Amazon because it just wasn't worth the time.

Accept the world as it is, not as you want it to be. Sadly.

3
 nikoid 31 Aug 2022
In reply to charliesdad:

> Can anyone suggest practical/legal/amusing ways of punishing these companies?

A friend of mine used to send bills to companies for his wasted time. He did seem to have easy access to a solicitor who did this for him as  a side line whilst dealing with his main work though. I've often thought about sending out bills for my time, but I suspect they would get ignored unless you followed up via the small claims procedure. Might be interesting to try. Or life may be too short as others have alluded to. 

Post edited at 18:44
 Trangia 31 Aug 2022
In reply to charliesdad:

Hmm.... Have you ever flown with Easyjet and had a problem which you would like them to deal with in a one to one customer/provider telephone conversation?

What's their address for correspondence? What's their head office telephone number?

In reply to charliesdad:

I tried to order a pair of approach shoes on Saturday. Stymied by the order process that asked for an e-payment method (none of which I had), or to enter details. I couldn't see how to progress the order.

So I rang up. Phone answered pretty promptly. Bloke explained that once I'd entered my details, it would then advance to a page to take payment. Stayed on the line until I'd been successful, and confirmed my order had come through. I said how nice it was to have a phone number to contact, to confirm the shop was in the UK, and to get support.

Shoes despatched yesterday, arrived today. Hermes even managed to deliver in the middle of the two-hour predicted slot.

Shout out to Hill & Dale Outdoors.

In reply to Trangia:

I had to get a refund from EasyJet, as I had booked some flights for June 2020. It was surprisingly easy, although I understand that I may have been fortunate.

In reply to charliesdad:

The worst I have experienced was Currys. I didn't really want to buy from them but a combination of a couple of fairly critical appliances and being deep in pandemic restrictions limited my options.

Various issues, but the main one was there installers refusing to fit my new cooker*. It took months to get a refund of the installation fee. No phone number, no email address, website was just chat bots and event the usually fruitful social media approach seemed ineffective.

In reply to henwardian:

> I got scammed out of about 10 euros a few years ago for a cheapo reversing sensor kit, I didn't bother to try chasing after the initial contact with Amazon because it just wasn't worth the time.

Can't argue with your pragmatism but I think indignation would have made the time worth it to me, despite the small amount of money involved. And if companies are allowed to get away with scamming small amounts of money, why would they ever stop unless people make it too much hassle for them.

In reply to henwardian:

> Yup, customer service died a while back.

> The fundamental problem is that customers have spent decades selecting for the lowest price as the only criteria when buying absolutely anything.

...

> Accept the world as it is, not as you want it to be. Sadly.

Or pay a premium for quality service.  If you bank with Coutts I very much doubt you're left on hold for hours, but I suspect the monthly fee for an account is well over £50 (I've not looked) to pay for that quality.

Or or... if you choose a service where it's mostly DIY they can often afford to provide better service when you really do need to speak to them.  I've found banking-wise Monzo are good for that.   (Not as good as they were but still decent).

Using conveyancers as an example, if you want quality, attentive service go to a small firm of solicitors, but expect to pay well in excess of what you'll pay for a budget online conveyancing service because the hourly rate will be that of an expert solicitor, not an adminstrator on close-to-minimum, and forget "no move no fee" as that won't be offered.  Or for insurance, don't go with whoever's cheapest according to the meerkats, look for one that is specifically set up around good, personal service - NFU Mutual with its local branches is an example of a traditional insurer set up to offer good service in person and by phone, and I've also heard (but not experienced) that the brokers A-Plan are very similar.

In the end, good service still exists, but you need to be willing to pay a fair price for it.

Post edited at 10:57
In reply to The New NickB:

What was the reason for them refusing out of interest?

Dixons Group have always been rubbish, though.  If you want service over price for appliances, a local independent (they do exist, Euronics seems to be the main buying group which is a bit analogous to the likes of Premier and Spar for local shops) is likely to be the way to go.  Personally with appliances I just go for box-shifters (AO mainly) and install myself, as installing something like a cooker in place of an existing one that's basically the same, provided you have the right wiring/breaker for its specification, is an utterly trivial job, no harder than wiring a plug.  And if your new one needs a 40A circuit rather than a 32A one you need a proper sparky, not a Currys screwdriver monkey.

Post edited at 10:55
 stubbed 01 Sep 2022
In reply to The New NickB:

This happened to us - the first fitters said the oven was damaged so took it away again. The second fitters said they couldn't lift it up the steps to our front door (we had highlighted the steps before we paid). The third fitters - apparently whether to carry it or not is something the fitter can decide - fitted the oven but cut off all the electric supply to the kitchen at the same time, then told me it was a coincidence before they walked off. Now I always go to John Lewis. But then I don't buy many ovens. Anyway we got an electrician out to fix things and Currys paid for it so I guess it could have been worse.

In reply to captain paranoia:

Hermes is an example of the race to the bottom, but one where, utterly bizarrely, companies won't usually offer the option to pay for a better alternative courier like DPD or just the Royal Mail.  I do wonder if they offer preferential exclusivity contracts, but if I know a supplier will be using Hermes I just won't use them unless the item is something so cheap I could afford to lose it e.g. basic clothing like T-shirts* and the likes - it's one key reason I use Amazon a lot.

* I can't generally buy in store because 2XL extra long is a very rare size.

In reply to stubbed:

I didn't think of John Lewis, but they are another example of a business where you can pay more than you would for a box shifter but get decent service in return.

In the end if you fly Ryanair or equivalent you can expect it to be awful, whereas if you fly business class with BA it'll mostly be decent, but it'll cost you.  The reason economy flying in say the 70s used to be good is that in real terms it cost the sort of money business class does now.

One obvious exception, though, is the railway, which charges premium prices yet largely offers crap service, and needs a massive kick up the backside.  Unfortunately subsidy (which is necessary) effectively protects it from the market as a side effect.

Post edited at 11:03
 gethin_allen 01 Sep 2022
In reply to The New NickB:

I also found Currys to be useless.

I ordered something from them using their online video chat advisor thing which was surprisingly very good and then it all went wrong. I got the order confirmation emails but then didn't get any confirmation that the item was ready to collect. So a few days after the item should have been ready I couldn't get hold of anyone or any info so I went to the shop where I was due to collect the item only to be told that the order had been cancelled but they couldn't tell me why. Did they expect me just to guess or mind read?

Now TV are worse though. We've been waiting for our broadband to be connected of 5 weeks now. It was supposed to be done 3 weeks ago and is now scheduled to be installed next week as they keep pushing the date back at the very last minute. I managed to get through to their call centre and the very smug sounding chap wouldn't even register our complaint because as he put it "it was just a provisional date and we had no reason to complain" despite the provisional date being a month out. Asking if I could speak to his manager I was told that I would have to have a cause to complain (which I apparently don't) and it would take 72 hours for someone to call me back.

In reply to henwardian:

> We also get s*** quality food in the supermarkets by the same process - the concept of paying for quality seems rare enough now that shops offering such do not have a market to support them.

I'm not saying they're perfect, and you're not going to find them in inner city Bradford (random example), but there are supermarkets in the market for quality and good service - Waitrose (in the south) and Booths (in the north), the latter being markedly better than the former in most ways but the concept being similar.  But again it'll cost you.  If you want quality you have to be willing to pay the cost of it.

Shopping in one of those two is always a pleasure, with a quality selection in nice surroundings and generally very pleasant staff (with, like everywhere, the odd exception).  But when you get to the till you'll not be as happy as at Aldi.

1
 ExiledScot 01 Sep 2022
In reply to charliesdad:

It seems most companies "are experiencing an unusually high volume of calls", no matter what time of day you ring them. 

 gethin_allen 01 Sep 2022
In reply to Neil Williams:

I think it's a bit of a myth that you can't get good food from a mainstream supermarket. You may not get particular special items but in general you can eat perfectly good, tasty and wholesome food from the big chains without having to sell a kidney.

In reply to gethin_allen:

> I think it's a bit of a myth that you can't get good food from a mainstream supermarket. You may not get particular special items but in general you can eat perfectly good, tasty and wholesome food from the big chains without having to sell a kidney.

Yes, I'd agree there, supermarket bought meat, fruit and veg etc is perfectly OK if not "premium".  My point was more about the quality of the overall experience and customer service, which is what you're really paying for if you go to Waitrose, though I think Booths is a cut above with some producs of the sort of quality you'd expect to see in a farm shop or e.g. artisan butcher.

 Uncle Derek 01 Sep 2022
In reply to gethin_allen:

I would agree with you generally.

I would say Aldi/ Lidl for the basket fillers, independent butcher/ fishmonger for some meat and fish, and a good Asian supermarket

Booths is good at what it does, but I can eat better, cheaper, using my combo.

As to the OPs comments, we have sold our souls to the big organisations both private and public, and we work for them rather than them for us .

1
In reply to Neil Williams:

Said there was an electrical fault. Electrician who did fit it said there was no problem.

It was deep in the pandemic options where limited. As I couldn’t visit a physical shop, the website with the most information on it won. We also didn’t have a working cooker, so speed was also important.

I will never use them again.

 gethin_allen 01 Sep 2022
In reply to Uncle Derek:

I agree with the Asian supermarket suggestion, in fact I'm just about to head out to one now, excellent for dry pulses, beans and spices.

In reply to charliesdad:

Shout out to Wales and West utilities who have been brilliant. British Gas have been contemptuously hopeless. Won’t go into details but at one point their entire house move  team shut down for 2 weeks for ‘staff training’! When things got legal, I.e. I said I did want to attend court for a summons things were sorted in a couple of days but this could have been done in 6 months earlier. 

 Carless 01 Sep 2022
In reply to The New NickB:

Had a good one with Currys many years ago. Ordered and paid for a fridge/freezer and washing machine with 2 day delivery as it was to be packed into an international move.

They rang(!) and said sorry, we can't meet the deadline so order is cancelled and reimbursed (which it was). Ordered exactly the same from Dixons and sure enough it was delivered 2 days later in time to be packed, then 2 hours later Currys delivered the same as well

Rang Currys and they said keep it as too complicated to return... ROFL

 deepsoup 01 Sep 2022
In reply to Luke90:

> Can't argue with your pragmatism but I think indignation would have made the time worth it to me, despite the small amount of money involved.

In that case here's a story you might enjoy..
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/aug/12/man-overcharged-20-rupees-for-india-train-ticket-wins-22-year-legal-battle

 gethin_allen 01 Sep 2022
In reply to Tyler:

> Shout out to Wales and West utilities who have been brilliant.

Should probably do the same a give props to those who have been good.

Yorkshire water. We moved house so gave them a reading etc. had to call them with our new address for the final bill, they were busy but offered a call back, they called when they said they would and all was easily sorted.

Sadly, due to the non-market water supplier market we can't continue to be their customers in return for the good service.

 Trangia 01 Sep 2022
In reply to The New NickB:

You were very fortunate. We have been trying since March to get refunds promised to us for hotel costs and taxi promised to us by EJ ground staff following delays and cancelled flights. EJ either ignore our requests or send us generic referrals to FAQs which are unhelpful. Trying to ring them results in being kept in a queue for up to an hours which eventually just cut you off . It's unbelievably frustrating.

 Jenny C 01 Sep 2022
In reply to charliesdad:

Npower.

Rented accommodation and previous tenant hadn't paid their bill. We repeatedly passed on landlords details, paid our own bills and gave them a forwarding address for the final bill which we cleared.

A few months later got a debt collection agency chasing for the overdue bill. Npower had forwarded our new address (still in previous tenants name) onto them!

Never even get an apology.

 Dave Ferguson 01 Sep 2022
In reply to charliesdad:

I think we need to understand that for every negative experience there are numerous positive ones or those that are just plain adequate. I've had very good service from many of the companies listed in this thread and certainly none as bad that some of you have had to endure. All companies of the size we are talking about will make mistakes re: customer service, staff can be tired, be having a bad day, in training or just plain ineffectual.  I've never had any problems with Currys, Easyjet, HSBC, British Gas or Npower.

Ryanair appear to be the butt of many peoples bad experiences but I can only praise them. When our flight was cancelled due to snow, they paid for a 4 star hotel for 2 nights and also paid for meals etc, We have flown with them often and as long as you abide by their terms they provide a very cheap and reliable service.

I take the point made by Neill that if you pay for a quality service you'll probably get good customer service although this is not always the case, we are all human after all. I for one really value the cheap and reliable services offered by many of these companies and have enjoyed holidays and experiences that I could never have afforded had we stayed in the bad old days of high prices and elitist attitudes to the plebs.

Poor customer service can happen anywhere, even in small companies with "better quality" products or services. Most peoples experiences are perfectly satisfactory, lets keep a sense of proportion and value the fact we can fly to europe for £30, buy a dishwasher for £200, and have clean water delivered to our taps and sewage taken away and processed for a remarkably low price.

 Duncan Bourne 02 Sep 2022
In reply to charliesdad:

Had an interesting problem with Amazon once. Ordered a book and a few days later the package arrived but not the book (empty package). I couldn't return the item for refund as no item had been recieved though it was flagged as such. It took a bit of tooing and froing but eventually they re-sent the book. I asked if they wanted the empty package with a note saying "this is where the book should have been but it wasn't" but they eventually said  it wasn't necessary

Post edited at 11:40
 LastBoyScout 02 Sep 2022
In reply to charliesdad:

I am currently having an argument with a company about a damaged item.

While I agree that I'm outside the time window for reporting damage (had a few delays with getting other pre-req work done, which means it's being installed rather later than planned), the box didn't have any signs of damage, the other items in the order were fine and the damage/flaws in the paintwork are something that could not have happened at my house...

 owlart 02 Sep 2022
In reply to Duncan Bourne:

I've heard of people being asked to send photographs to prove "Item not received"! A photograph of an empty desk?

All businesses can give good or bad service, but the mark of a good business is how they recover from giving (perceived) bad service. Do they double-down and make it worse, or apologise and make things right?

 henwardian 02 Sep 2022
In reply to Neil Williams:

> NFU Mutual with its local branches is an example of a traditional insurer set up to offer good service in person and by phone,

I'm with them. I've not had a claim so I can't pass judgement yet really but everything else so far has been pretty good.

> In the end, good service still exists, but you need to be willing to pay a fair price for it.

uh... hmmm... Maybe.

For a lot of things it can be very difficult to determine where you might go to get good service, compounded by the fact that cheap companies with horrible service will still claim in 10 metre high lettering that they've been found by independent survey to be the best for customer service in the galaxy and ultimately turn out to be garbage.

 gethin_allen 02 Sep 2022
In reply to LastBoyScout:

Had a similar situation with a cooker hob. All looked well, no damage of the packaging etc. But when it eventually got installed the cast iron pan supports were misshapen. The supplier refused any liability.

 MarkVinnette 03 Sep 2022
In reply to charliesdad:

Worst I had was OVO energy. Harassed me to install a smart meter in my property for months and I finally agreed to do it.

Their installer comes in, 30 min into the work the guy says “do you happen know an electrician” ?


Turned out he had damaged the large power cable connecting the consumer unit to the meter, but he is not actually an electrician and is not qualified to replace it. He kept arguing that it was “already damaged” which was 100% bs.

Then just left, leaving my property without power. OVO Customer service refused to help and they basically said I should sort it out with the installer myself.

Ended up having to pay an electrician £120 to fix the issue (The electrician was laughing his arse off, joking to his mate that they were getting so much business from incompetent smart meter installers who left people without power)

Needless to say I switched energy supplier the next day.

Post edited at 03:18
In reply to charliesda

My pet peeve is deliveries/appointments and that these services fail to recognise that to afford these goods, you generally have to work for a living.

Expecting the customer to take a day off to receive a delivery because the company can only specify "Tuesday" for delivery and fails to understand your pleas for an evening delivery. That £200 washer suddenly doubled in price.

The service industry and I include GPS,dentist etc here could benefit all by working backshift.

 critter 03 Sep 2022
In reply to Neil Williams:

Definitely agree NFU insurance is worth it!

Always top 2 in Which customer satisfaction surveys.

Post edited at 10:40
 Dave Ferguson 03 Sep 2022
In reply to critter:

it depends on your attitude to risk, I've consistently been with the cheapest possible insurance companies for both car and house insurance for over 20 years. I shop around and change every year unless my existing insurer matches the lowest price I find. I've claimed once on building insurance, due to a waste water leak and once on car insurance and both times have had excellent service. Paying an extra £50 a policy with NFU each year mounts up to an awful lot of money for "piece of mind".

In reply to Dave Ferguson:

But in the end you pays your money and you takes your choice.  You can't expect premium service from a budget provider.

I found More Than quite good a while back, no idea what they are like now but they were again a bit on the expensive side for an online only provider.

 climbingpixie 03 Sep 2022
In reply to Jenny C:

Npower are appalling. I used to work for them and despite their £200 annual dual fuel staff discount I still got my gas and electricity from another supplier!

 HakanT 04 Sep 2022
In reply to charliesdad:

Thank you for your post, it is very important to us.

Right now, we are experiencing an unusually high post volume, just like we always do. We will respond with a snarky answer as soon as we can be arsed.

Did you know that you can find answers to most posts, though most likely not your specific post, on our forums? Why don't you waste an hour of your life trying that?

Press 1 to continue waiting until you lose the will to live, or press 2 to get a call-back from a call-centre monkey who can't help you.


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