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Every year Ombudsman Services produces its Consumer Action Monitor. It undertakes research with consumers regarding complaints. This year it looked at the impact of Covid 19 on consumer complaining habits during March and September in 2020.

Figures released today (9 March 2021) by Ombudsman Services in its Consumer Action Report 2020 reveal that 83% of respondents agreed that a “Well-handled complaint increases my loyalty to a provider”.

Loyalty and complaint handling

10,149 consumers were asked about complaining to energy and telecom providers but it is likely that this would apply to other companies of all sizes too. Companies would do well to take heed of the findings. With it costing at least 5 times as much to gain a new customer as it does to retain one it is a very ignorant, arrogant, naïve or complacent (or mixture of any of the 4) company that does not pay attention to the value of good customer service.

From the Consumer Action Monitor 2020:


A well-handled complaint is one where the customer has been shown empathy, listened to, understood, treated fairly and given a satisfactory response in a timely manner. But it is widely known that the telecom and energy sectors are the worst for doing any of these things!

During March to September 2020 consumers showed leniency and tolerance to providers, as they complained less than in the preceding year. However, the reasons for this are not fully discussed. For example, it could be that consumers were under stress in other areas and that complaining about a provider was taking a back seat.

Understanding of Alternative Dispute Resolution when needing to complain

There is a huge lack of consumer understanding about Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR). Only 3% of consumers knew that providers had 8 weeks to resolve a complaint before it could be escalated to an ADR provider, such as an Ombudsman.

The CAM research asked consumers how long they thought companies had to resolve a complaint:

The number of respondents knowing exactly where to take a complaint was a shockingly low 25%. The lack of awareness of ADR and what is does was quite apparent.

Dispute Resolution: What it all means.

The CAM report asked consumers:

It was quite clear that consumers do not know or fully understand the time scales relating to complaints. A huge amount of work needs to be undertaken to raise the understanding of ADR for consumers. The reports Ombudsman Omnishambles and More Ombudsman Omnishambles outlined some problems with the ADR sector in the approval and monitoring of ADR providers and how the current and growing landscape is making things more confusing for consumers.

Vulnerable customers and complaining

The CAM report identified that during 2019 70% of vulnerable customers said that they would rather “suffer in silence” than complain. However, in 2020 this figure dropped. The number of those people identifying as vulnerable also decreased. The report suggests that this may be because of the support measures put in place during the pandemic. Whether these figures change once the support is removed will be interesting to see. I, for one, certainly don’t believe that it is because providers have upped their game and done the right thing in helping vulnerable customers. My 79-year-old mother was told by Sky that “no”, an engineer could not fit her new router and she should get someone to help. Bearing in mind that this was during lockdown, someone coming into the house would actually be breaching guidelines, whereas an engineer would not. Sky was clearly not supporting vulnerable customers in this case.

Green issues

Consumers showed a keen interest in green credentials and used relevant information when deciding a provider with which to contract. 65% of respondents said it was important for their energy provider to have good green credentials and 56% for telecoms. 44% of consumers said that energy and telecom providers must take green issues more seriously. There is, of course, much work to be done to ensure that the information is accurate in this area too.

The future for telecom and energy providers’ customer service

It remains to be seen if complaints from consumers will start to increase as we get through to the end of the pandemic. There could be a lot of movement in the sector as people become less tolerant or expect better deals and more redress in return for their tolerance. Certainly companies have a long way to go in improving service quality, especially for vulnerable customers. Expectations are likely to rise and providers are unlikely to improve quality in line. So, there should be more input from the regulators OFCOM and OFGEM to ensure that they do more to assist customers, especially those who are vulnerable. Consumers clearly expect resolutions to be quicker, therefore regulatory and approval bodies for ADR providers need to do more to raise standards and shorten these time scales, which were set long before emails were the norm!

It will be interesting to see how the green agenda pans out. Will it continue to grow as a factor in choosing a provider or will consumers make more economic decisions post pandemic?

One thing is for sure, energy and telecom providers need to up their game in customer service!

Further information for consumers

All you need to know about complaining to telecom providers

All you need to know to make a complaint about energy

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For more help, advice, tips, information and templates buy  How to Complain: The Essential Consumer Guide to Getting Refunds, Redress and Results!


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.

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Customer Service: 5 ways to get rave reviews & referrals

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Complaining about goods and services – all you need to know

Consumer rights and how to use them when complaining about goods and services

There are loads of posts on complaining about goods and services on the blog. Here for ease are links for you to find the information most relevant to your issue.

Using consumer law to complain about goods

A Guide to the Consumer Rights Act 2015 – the main law covering faulty goods and services.

What you need to know about the Consumer Rights Act 2015 digital content additional information.

How to use the Misrepresentation Act 1967 all areas of the Act.

Stories about using consumer rights to complain about goods

When flowers aren’t delivered: What to do a quick story regarding complaining flowers not delivered.

BHS customer care mistakes which made it look like it didn’t care! Although BHS is no more this story covers what you can do when a piece is missing from a product and you don’t want to take the item back, you want the piece!

How to beat Uncle Tom Cobley’s customer service a story of the rare occasion when it may be better to deal with the manufacturer.

How to complain about an item over a year old and how not to be fobbed off.

Rip Off Britain faulty goods your rights

Complaining about services

How to complain about a dry cleaners – when something goes wrong with your dry cleaning.

A Guide to the Consumer Rights Act 2015 – the main law covering faulty goods and services.

How to use the Misrepresentation Act 1967 all areas of the Act.


Stories about using consumer rights to complain about services

How to get the cream (without being a clot!) a story of complaining about poor service when wanting a cream tea!

When flowers aren’t delivered: What to do a quick story regarding complaining flowers not delivered.

Not such an Easylife customer service a story about perseverance and complaining on principle.

How to complain about deliveries

What happens when a business doesn’t prepare for a promotion story of how a delivery was late, then packaged badly causing damage. The claim.

Your rights, mail order, online and deliveries all you need to know regarding how to complain about purchasing items off premises.

How to complain about deliveries

All you need to know about unsolicited goods what you need to know if you have received items that you didn’t order.

Rip Off Britain discussing shopping outside of EU

How to complain in different specific sectors

Electricity pylon Everything you need to know to complain about energy problems


All you need to know to make a complaint about energy  posts about your additional rights specific to the energy sector for various situations.


lap top on woman


All you need to know about complaining to telecom providers  posts about your additional rights specific to the telecom sector for various situations.



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All you need to know about booking/complaining about holidays/flights/travel posts about your additional rights specific to the travel sector for various situations.


How to take complaints further

How to contact CEOs when and how to get contact details of CEOs and how to write a letter to a CEO.

Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR): What it all means post that explains what it is all about and how you can use it.

ADR – all about it for World Ombudsman Day issues with ADR.


Rip Off Britain talking getting redress with independent reports and ombudsmen

Tips on complaining effectively

Top 20 Tips How to complain effectively! Lots of tips and advice to making sure you always get what you are entitled to when you complain

How to write a letter of complaint a sample formal letter  of a complaint written regarding an issue with Sharps fitting a bedroom.

Everything everyone needs to know about call centres the secrets of how they work and how to beat them

What happens when a business doesn’t prepare for a promotion outlines how you can get to the front of the queue of complaints.

Why you suck at complaining (and what you can do about it) not good at complaining? The reason and what to do about it may be here!

Why you should write not ‘phone to complain effectively whenever you can you should write not phone, here’s why.

Helen Dewdney, The Complaining Cow BBC Breakfast TV Discusses How We Complain in the UK

7 Common fob offs that companies use to not give refunds! typical fob offs companies use to stop you asserting your rights and how to address them!

15 Great words to use in complaints helpful to use in those emails!

10 Types of Complainer Which Are You? check yourself out!

How to use social media to complain

The twitter symbol How not to complain on Twitter

Is social media an effective method for complaining?

5 ways how not to use Twitter to complain (and 5 ways how you should)


Questioning why you should complain

7 Questions you should ask yourself if you don’t complain!

Warning: How not complaining drives up fat cat profits!

Complaining in the EU

What did the EU do for consumer law? various consumer laws that cover you when shopping in the EU.

What to do when your flight is delayed – the full guide everything you need to know about delayed and cancelled flights, your rights and how to take matters further and a warning should you use AviationADR

Your rights Ryanair strikes

Further help with complaining

book Logo cartoon cow at a laptop of book cover. How to Complain: The Essential Consumer Guide to Getting Refunds, Redress and Results!


For more advice, consumer laws and template letters GET THE BOOK! How To Complain: The ESSENTIAL Consumer Guide to Getting REFUNDS, Redress and RESULTS!




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Want to get better at complaining? See 101 Habits of an Effective Complainer




The Complaining Cow logo download templates

Save yourself time and effort finding the laws and wording a letter of complaint and download a template, fill in your details and get that redress

Purchase downloadable templates to gain redress



5 top tips for complaining effectively

Nearly everything you could ever need to make a complaint about anything!