ADR Ombudsman Business Complaining about customer service Latest News

Build your brand with Trust, Ethics & Sustainability

The 09 October 2020 saw the last day of Customer Service Week which is run by the Institute of Customer Service. That day’s theme was Trust, Ethics & Sustainability: Building brand reputation through your actions. And I wrote this article.

This year has seen a growth in the understanding and importance of these areas for consumers. Covid has put a sharp focus on how businesses behave. Whether it’s airlines not giving refunds or businesses profiteering or on the flip side businesses providing voluntary services in the community, consumers are changing their shopping habits.

When I asked people on my Facebook page about this it was quite clear that the pandemic has certainly made people rethink their shopping habits. Those companies that were seen to be doing the right thing and/or diversify where they could are being recognised and are likely to continue to benefit.

There are many more stories of people changing their shopping habits to move away from companies which are not doing the right thing.

Airlines have come under huge criticism for not providing prompt refunds for flights not taken. The regulator, the Civil Aviation Authority, has done little to help the situation as airlines continue to flaunt the rules. Amongst those is British Airways.

Following data breaches, IT outages, strikes and now appalling handling of refunds for cancelled flights due to Coronavirus, British Airways has been referred to as a ‘national disgrace’ in the media and is currently fighting for its survival with a policy of profits first, people second and levels of customer service at an all-time low. ‘Trust‘, ’ethics‘ and ’sustainability‘ are words which appear not to feature highly if at all with BA whilst people still fight for their refunds.

trust written in the sand

Refunds has been a huge issue for consumers and although they have generally been more tolerant of companies this year, this was during the lockdown period. Ombudsman Services undertook a survey regarding the effect of Covid-19 on complaints and found that 24% of those surveyed said that they did not complain at all during lockdown, as they were more lenient. 41% said that they had become more tolerant of poor service and 10% said that they were less tolerant. However, this tolerance cannot last and consumers’ patience has started to wear thin when refunds were just not coming when they were due.

Consumers are clearly stating that they will not use companies again that treated them badly. Those companies stubbornly and illegally holding onto refunds will see consumers undertake Section 75 refunds or go to the Small Claims Court and win. In failing to respect their customers they will lose both the money and the goodwill of consumers. And bad news about companies spreads quickly…

Stores often try and sell a warranty that you don’t need too.

Anyone who has ever bought a car will have had the warranty sale experience! Or indeed shopping in Currys! Few people know the difference between a warranty, a guarantee and their consumer rights.

Companies should play the long game instead of seeing customers as one-hit wonders. By doing so, they will inspire loyalty and word of mouth recommendations with customers acting as free ambassadors for the dealerships resulting in increased profits and sales long term.

Many companies in the non regulated area are not members of an Alternative Dispute Resolution scheme. Those that are, show that they they are prepared to pay to go the extra to resolve any disputes.

There’s a growing movement for ethical purchasing too. Ethical Consumer is an independent, not-for-profit, multi-stakeholder co-operative which provides tools and resources to make informed ethical choices at the checkout. It has recently highlighted and continues to work on changing fast fashion practices and works in all sectors for example providing templates on informing banks on why you have switched.


So, businesses beware! The number of consumers switching to avoid insurance loyalty penalties is increasing, ethical purchasing is increasing and the tolerance of poor practice is decreasing!

In summary, do the right thing by your customers and watch profits grow. Do wrong to them and they simply won’t come back to you.

More articles on Customer Service Week

Know your customer

Where are your customer service skills? How do you improve them?

How to celebrate and recognise your customer service heroes

Bringing customer service to the Boardroom

The Complaining Cow – free support for businesses

It takes 5 times as much to gain a new customer to retain one. So work on turning your customers into superfans who do much of the heavy lifting for you!

Join the Facebook Group Increase Sales through Customer Service: Compassion, Care and  Integrity  A private group where you can give and get support, advice and share good practice on how to improve customer service.

Free download Customer Service 5 ways to get rave reviews & referrals a few tweaks to your customer service can help you reduce the risk to your company’s reputation, finances and impact on customers and increase sales.

Customer Service how to turn customers into superfans raving about your products/services

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Companies customer service Complaining about customer service Complaining about faulty goods Latest News

Can’t find a company email address? Here’s how to get it!

Customer service: Email still beats webchat and phone calls

Many companies make it difficult for customers to complain.

I have always advocated writing to companies when complaining, for several reasons.

1) So that you have the evidence trail should you need to take the matter further

2) You can ensure that you have covered everything you need to do and

3) You can delete and rewrite if you are getting angry while drafting, which you can’t do on the phone!

Watchdog Customer Service contact investigation

Yesterday (1 July 2020) BBC Watchdog aired their investigation into companies which made it difficult for customers to contact them. It showed people not able to get through on webchat or being cut off on phone calls. It also showed how some companies refused to provide an email address for customer service. More businesses are doing this as people learn that to complain effectively and to go to an ombudsman – or go to court – they will need that written evidence to prove the case.

The programme covered Currys, Ikea, Three, Sainsbury’s. One viewer said he was 167th in the queue on a webchat and waited over an hour when it all disappeared and he had to start again. One caller was waiting for 5 hours and another for 7 hours trying to reach someone at Currys.

Sainsburys does not currently have a customer service email address. I discovered this back in February and when I asked them why this was, a spokesperson said “We regularly review our services and made these changes long before our priority delivery slots launched. Customers can continue to contact us via phone, Twitter and Facebook.”

Companies may be removing email addresses as a cost-cutting exercise, or deliberately, in order to make it more difficult for customers to complain. The more difficult it is to complain, the less likely people are to do it.

Chat bots can be irritating and like webchat you can’t guarantee you will have a record of everything. So you really want to email.

The Complaining Cow logo download templates

How to email when companies don’t want you to!

However, it IS possible to email companies quite easily. The website provides the email addresses for the CEOs of companies free of charge. That’s how to contact a CEO! When emailing the CEO it is unlikely that the CEO will personally respond (although a few do) but it does get a response from the CEO’s executive team and you will have a written record of your complaint.

So for example, some of the companies named on BBC Watchdog as ones where you could not easily contact them by email plus a few more….. here you go…so now you can…





British Gas

How to escalate your consumer issue

What about social media?

You can also use social media but do be aware that it has its limitations. People frequently say that they have successfully complained because they have used social media. Occasionally if used in the right way, your complaint is simple, the trader has a good social media team and the wind is in the right direction it may be possible to get a good result.

Used in the right way social media can be a good tool to name and shame and speed things up but that’s the limit., In the end you will still need to provide all the details off the public forum, which is as good as sending an email in the first place. See 5 ways how not to use Twitter to complain (and 5 ways how you should) to get the best from complaining using Twitter.

Successful companies are easily contactable and accountable

It is very shortsighted of companies to behave in this manner. In general people don’t mind when companies make mistakes, it’s how they deal with them that matters. If they make it difficult for customers to complain then those customers will tell others, the company’s reputation  and stop using the company..

But don’t be beaten!

Further help

See Top 20 Tips How to Complain! for how to write an effective email.

Cover of How to Complain updated 2019 large cow logo


For masses of information, tips, guidance, laws and regulations and templates GET THE BOOK! How To Complain: The ESSENTIAL Consumer Guide to Getting REFUNDS, Redress and RESULTS!