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!

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.email icon

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

However, it IS possible to email companies quite easily. The website Ceoemail.com provides the email addresses for the CEOs of companies free of charge. 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…

Currys

Ikea

Three

Sainsburys

British Gas

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!

The Complainers Giving Complainers a Bad Name?

My experience with The Complainers
Well  The Complainers filmed me. Lovely Tom and Jon came to film me and said they would be back to film updates to the stories and film me with the blog and stuff! I’m probably old enough to be Tom’s mother but should you ever be filmed by Dragonfly (they made The Hotel – hilarious, and One Born Every Minute so a great company) ask for him, he is very very easy on the eye! 🙂 They asked to be kept informed and that was that. I kept them informed, the researcher seemed interested in the workshops and community radio I was doing, all more interesting than filming someone emailing and said she’d ‘phone on the Monday. Then I was on the BBC….. Then it all went quiet. I joked that perhaps Channel 4 may not like showing someone who had been on the BBC! It became clear that despite more interesting things to film, like having my carpet cleaned courtesy of The Body Shop and updates to stories, workshops and radio, Dragonfly didn’t contact me. After a few months I was curious why and emailed. Jon replied “We had a bit of a change of direction after we met you so it became more about longstanding complaints within the utility sphere and then it got more focussed from there. Certainly I hope when you see the documentary that our episode wouldn’t have been the right fit for your endeavours, even though both Tom and myself had a fantastic time coming to meet you.”

Hmm, I took long standing to mean longstanding. My complaint with Virgin that they filmed had reached the point of CISAS and that has to be 8 weeks before you can do that. I thought all my stories re Tesco showed that I often picked on them. But then we saw the first episode and things became clearer.

The first episode
I thought that this would be interesting. See things from the other side and how Transport for London deal with complaints. Although we didn’t see that. We saw abuse sent through Twitter which is nothing to do with complaining. We saw Traffic Droid, giving out red cards to road users who in his opinion were not abiding by the rules, and by others’ opinion, putting others in danger. I’m not certain as I got so bored watching the programme. The Telegraph summed it up in a good review. An opportunity to show what happens in call centres but we didn’t see one complaint being handled. There must be hundreds of complaints about transport but did we see any? No. Far too much of one person, even in the name of entertainment was he really the only “character” they could find? So if you were watching in the hope of finding out how to complain about delayed trains this is what you need.

The second episode
Councils. Well this will be full of “characters” I thought. Even if we don’t see complaints being resolved. Nope. Just a few yet again. Ridiculous, there must have been loads to choose from. An extreme complainer – no sign of complaining about consumer issues or asserting legal rights. At least I think in this episode we did see a couple of call centre staff answer a call and resolve a complaint.

The third episode
Well apparently this is the one I would have been in. And there it was the reason I was not used. Fair enough. Yep, “My endeavours were not a good fit”. No wonder Tom and Jon wanted to come back to my house and have me cook for them! They must have liked coming to my house, it was clean and they happily drank tea, ate biscuits and had a glass of wine. But I am polite (well, when I write complaining to companies) assertive and use the Law. At least the programme was extreme enough for people who don’t complain to realise that this is not the way to do it and hopefully see that not everyone sees a complaint as an “opportunity”. Shame about the stereotyping too for 2 of the characters, although moving your stuff via a nicked shopping trolley did make me laugh Ian 🙂

Overall thoughts
Well, I can see why I wasn’t used! Although I write (I’m reliably informed) a useful and entertaining blog and give good free advice on social media I’m not sad/loony/desperate enough to go looking for complaints or continue on and on with the same complaint (having got it resolved in the first place). I named the insect in the Tesco rice Phillip after the CEO and I had a hammer which I was tenderising chicken with while I slated the Tesco CEO. It amused Jon and Tom at the time but I think that as time progressed and the powers that be decided they wanted extreme complainers (as opposed to people complaining and asserting their legal rights) it would have been used if I had gone to the Tesco offices with insect and hammer in hand demanding to see Clarke!

I loathe the term “serial complainer” and “professional complainer” both are ridiculous terms and don’t reflect what many other people and I do which is to complain effectively. We don’t go looking for complaints or continue complaining when a matter is resolved. But the people reflected in this programme were not just asserting their legal rights or righting wrongs. A better title for the programme would have been “Extreme Complainers”. Then that would have truly reflected the programme. As it was, it was disappointing as we didn’t see how best to complain or how complaints were dealt with. Should you want to know how to make complaints effectively then I talk about tips:

and 2o Top Tips

So all in all, I was of course a bit gutted that I wasn’t filmed more and shown as it would have been great PR for the blog. If I didn’t write this blog I wouldn’t have wanted to appear so perhaps that’s another difference between your average complainer and an extreme one. I was filmed for Ripped Off Britain last week, so looks like I’m more of a BBC gal! Tell you what these director chappies are really very nice although you should shave off the beard Iain, it doesn’t suit we need to see more of your face 🙂 I also think that directors are like police officers, all getting younger and making you feel old!

But the real shame is that such an opportunity to inform people was missed in an effort to “entertain”. But if they were wanting people to talk about it like Benefits Street the commissioners or whomever made the decisions to change the focus from genuine complaints and looking at how complaints are dealt with to showing extreme complainers were misguided. Reviews have been poor, characters were limited and people don’t care enough. Benefits come from our taxes, we generally care how our taxes are used and it is an issue which gets people worked up. You are either a complainer or you aren’t. One isn’t going to get worked up about how someone fills their time when it does not affect them personally. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. There is a need/opportunity for a programme on how people complain without being an extreme complainer and without having to resort to media programmes like Watchdog to take up cases. Sadly, The Complainers did not fill that gap.

What did you think of The Complainers?

If you want to be an effective complainer and always get redress, then buy the book!