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What is a consumer champion & how they can benefit business

What is a consumer champion?

A “consumer champion” is the name given to an individual or organisation that speaks up for consumers and their rights.

But how do you see a consumer champion?

Are they…

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An advocate for the consumer?

Fighting for consumer rights, a consumer champion will help consumers get refunds and redress for faulty items and poor service. They may help individuals or advise in the media.

A campaigner?

Consumer champions will often campaign for change in policies, laws and regulations to improve the experience for consumers. For example, organisations such as Money Saving Expert (MSE) and Which? are currently campaigning for new legislation to force large tech companies such as Facebook and Amazon to protect online users from scams and dangerous products sold on their sites.

An intermediary between you and your customer?

A consumer champion may work as a go between, negotiating between your business and your customer.

An inconvenience to you?

Some businesses may see a consumer champion as getting in the way, when they fight for the customer and want improvements. Some businesses will not listen to consumer champions or act on any of their advice, believing that only they know best.

An asset?

Some businesses do see the advantages of working with a consumer champion.

For example I took Tesco to court in 2013 but when Dave Lewis became CEO of the group in 2014 I contacted him and over the next 6 years I still continued to criticize but also found common ground.

Tesco and I did reciprocal blogs, I visited the Head Office and had lunch with him and his executive team, he spoke about me in his financial reporting and more. I interviewed Matt Davies the UK CEO and Dave which was put on the Tesco YouTube channel. I put forward questions from customers in a win-win for Tesco and its customers.

Case study: Tesco and a consumer champion

What do consumer champions do?

If a consumer champion is well established and credible, they will:

Consumer champion roles are various

Review sites could also be considered as a type of consumer champion. They allow customers to leave reviews on their experience of goods and services. They also provide a “right of reply” for businesses, allowing consumers to make an informed decision about a purchase. These are popular ways for people to research goods and services. The UK government is proposing changes to how review sites are regulated.

Review site examples:

  • TripAdvisor,
  • Google Local Guides,
  • Amazon,
  • Patient Opinion

Consumer Expert examples:

  • Helen Dewdney, The Complaining Cow, Martin Lewis, Simon Calder, Paul Lewis
  • Which?
  • Various experts in the media

Resources

There are a number of resources that businesses can work with and use to champion the customer, such as:

Advantages of working with a consumer champion

  • Feedback on customer service performance. A consumer champion will be able to provide the unique perspectives of your customers.
  • They will be able to show you ways to do things that work better for customers and therefore increase your sales.
  • Consumer champions will be keeping abreast of trends and changes with topical issues. They will be able to provide information about consumer behaviour.
  • Involving a consumer champion with your work can increase trust in your company and raise its profile.
  • In the same way, it can be used to generate good publicity. For example, quoting a consumer champion in your press releases.
  • Consumer champions will challenge your company and every stage of the customer journey. If you are open to this kind of challenge and the changes it could bring, it may benefit your company hugely.

How much do you read articles about/from or listen to consumer champions?

If you would like to know more about working with a consumer champion to increase the benefits to your company’s reputation, finances and also help vulnerable customers, thereby increasing your sales, please see below:

The Complaining Cow – free support for businesses

26/04/22 The Customer Journey – How to make Superfans one hour webinar with Becky Stevenson Business Consultant and Strategist and Helen Dewdney, Consumer Champion.

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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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.

 

 

The Complaining Cow services

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To see how The Complaining Cow can help you increase your sales through improving your customer service see Services. Consultancy, power hours, speaking, training, workshops and videos.

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ADR Ombudsman Complaining about customer service Complaining about faulty goods Deliveries Financial issues Laws telecoms Utilities

How to take a complaint further

This is a version of the article How to escalate a complaint when customer services fails that first appeared on The Metro website 28 December 2021.

How to escalate a complaint when customer services fails

Complaining can often be infuriating. You can be sent from pillar to post, fobbed off, ignored, or they may keep you waiting on the phone wasting your time. They may tell you that you should have taken out a warranty, despite the fact that your consumer rights will be worth more. You may have a lost parcel and the retailer tells you to take it up with the courier. This is a common fob off, as your contract is always with the retailer.

So what do you do when you can’t get a satisfactory resolution to your complaint through customer services?

There are a number of ways you can take the matter further.

Man arms out stretched banging fist on table

Contact the CEO

Ceoemail.com is a website that provides email addresses for CEOs. Over the years this site has become increasingly popular, showing the effectiveness of using this method and perhaps a growing frustration with customer services. The editor of the site, Marcus Williamson, says “Try to resolve your issue via customer services first. But if you’re not getting the answer you need then escalate to the CEO using the email address from our website.“

The CEO may not respond personally. However, it will get the matter escalated, often via a dedicated CEO team who have more autonomy and authority to resolve issues.

After obtaining the email address for the CEO, write to them explaining the situation. Detail all contact so far and send attachments with any correspondence that you have had with the company. Quote the applicable law or regulations which they are breaching. For example, the Consumer Rights Act 2015 – if items are not of satisfactory quality, do not last a reasonable length of time, do not match the description or are faulty then you are entitled to a refund, repair or replacement. (Full refund up to 30 days from purchase).

Outline that you are a loyal customer, if applicable. Be polite, succinct and objective. State what you want to resolve the matter. Is it a full refund? A repair? Replacement? Or even just an apology? You should provide a deadline by which you expect to receive a satisfactory response. State what you will do if this is not forthcoming. This could be sharing your experiences on relevant review sites and forums or one of the options below.

You can send the email with a delivery receipt should you need to take it further.

And if you don’t get that satisfactory response, then take the next steps you have outlined. You can choose to send one last email telling them what you are doing.

Use an Alternative Dispute Resolution provider

Most people will have heard of the Financial Ombudsman, The Energy Ombudsman and there are two providers for telecoms.

These are in the statutory sectors and companies in these areas must be a member of the appropriate scheme. Telecoms providers can be a member of Ombudsman Services: Telecoms or the Communication & Internet Services Adjudication Scheme

Ombudsman Services is the largest ADR provider in the UK and includes Energy and telecoms. The Energy Ombudsman has accepted more than 60,000 cases from consumers in the first ten months of 2021.

A spokesperson for Ombudsman Services says that

“Billing complaints are by far the most common type of complaint that we see, accounting for around two thirds of complaints across the sector.” Other common disputes include those around meters, customer service, payments and transfers. “We continue to work with providers and regulators to identify and address the key reasons for these issues.”

There are, however, a number of other ADR providers in non-statutory sectors. Many people are unaware of these and the help that they can provide.

For example, did you know that there is a Motor Ombudsman whose members include vehicle manufacturers, warranty product providers, franchised dealers, independent garages, networks and bodyshops? The Dispute Resolution Ombudsman along with the Furniture & Home Improvement Ombudsman (FHIO) and Rail Ombudsman provide Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) for the rail, retail and the furniture and home improvement sectors.

These schemes are voluntary and you will need to check if your trader is a member before threatening to go to an Ombudsman.

You can submit a case to an ADR provider 8 weeks from when a complaint was started or when you receive a “deadlock letter” [passive fixed!]. A deadlock letter is provided by the provider stating that it will be the final correspondence.

You can find a list of all the ADR providers on the Chartered Trading Standards Institute ADR Providers list.

More on ADR what it is and my work around it.

Small Claims Court

Ultimately you may need to go to the small claims court. Before this, you can threaten court action very effectively by showing that you mean business and this can often get the desired result.

Guide to the Small Claims court

Go to make-money-claim in England and Wales. For Scotland go to scotcourt.gov.uk and Northern Ireland NIDirect.gov.uk

Fill in all the details until “submit”. This should include everything that you are claiming for, plus the court costs which vary according to the amount you are claiming. Add in any out-of-pocket expenses, such as travel costs that you may have incurred or will incur in attending court. Then take a screenshot.

Email the CEO attaching the screenshot, forward the previous correspondence and change the subject line to “email before action”. In the email write that further to previous correspondence you are not satisfied with the response and will be taking the matter through the small claims court.

Give them a deadline by which to reply or you will click submit with no further recourse to them. This tells them quite clearly that you are serious about taking them to court, know how to do it and will do so. It rarely fails to do the trick!

If, however, this still does not elicit a satisfactory response, you can go to court. Costs vary depending on the amount you are claiming and in what part of the UK you live.

Showing you know your stuff and won’t be fobbed off demonstrates to the retailer that you mean business. Using these methods you are more likely to get the redress to which you are entitled.

How to escalate your consumer issue

Further help with complaining effectively

Top 20 Tips How to complain effectively

 

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If you need more help, information and tips with how to quote Acts, template letters and advice on how to complain effectively don’t forget the GET THE BOOK! How To Complain: The ESSENTIAL Consumer Guide to Getting REFUNDS, Redress and RESULTS!

 

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101 Habits of an Effective Complainer provides you with more tips

 

 

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Purchase and download templates to gain redress swiftly

 

 

Also more free tips here and on the Youtube channel.

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