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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.

Jane Hawkes, Queen of Customer Service, who has a background in the travel industry says:

“Following data breaches, IT outages, strikes and now appalling handling of refunds for cancelled flights due to Coronavirus, British Airways is no longer the pride of Britain. Instead it has been referred to as a ‘national disgrace’ 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 sadly do not exist in its vocabulary, the result being that loyal desperate customers are still battling to get the refunds they are rightfully due.”

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…

In more general non-Covid associated terms, Motoring Disputes Expert Scott Dixon, says that Evans Halshaw has consistently delivered a miserable experience for motorists over the years. “Buying a car is the second biggest purchase you are likely to ever make, yet car buyers are usually seen as a one-off opportunity to rip off with commission based add-ons – usually worthless warranties. Trust, ethics and sustainability are alien to most car sales staff and they are likely to be the least trusted.”

Whilst many car sales staff may disagree, anyone who has ever bought a car will have had the warranty sale experience! Few people know the difference between a warranty, a guarantee and their consumer rights.

Scott goes on to say “Car dealerships 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.

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The Complaining Cow free support for businesses

Join the Facebook Group 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 complaint handling.

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

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Business Complaining about customer service

How has COVID-19 impacted consumer complaints?

What is the effect of COVID-19 on consumer complaints?

Every year Ombudsman Services conducts a survey on how consumers are complaining for its Consumer Action Monitor report. Having surveyed more than 6,000 people this year it found that the average number of complaints per person fell sharply from 3.7 in the period pre lockdown to only 0.95 in May, the lowest figure in the 7 years history of undertaking the survey.graph showing decrease in complaints per person

 

Ombudsman Services Covid19 stops complaining in its tracks

Were consumers more tolerant during lockdown?

It seems consumers were more tolerant when things went wrong during the lockdown period, potentially giving businesses some slack. 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% say that they were less tolerant.

However, it does not take into account that fewer transactions were taking place, so there would be less to complain about perhaps? (Airlines aside!)

Although 24% said that they did not complain due to their increased tolerance, unreported complaints to potentially culpable product or service suppliers only went up 3% from 62% to 65%. One has to wonder if some people just wanted to appear more tolerant?

The number of consumer reporting negative feelings about a complaint also dropped significantly.

Graph showing percentage of people showing negative feelings pre Covid and duringgraph showing the drop in negative feelings about companies

Complaints in the near future

Businesses should take note, however, as 16% of consumers said that they intended to pick up the complaint once life becomes nearer “normal”. Reasons for this could be two fold. It is probable that they are more concerned about other pressures that Covid has brought them and once these subside they will pick up the complaint. It’s just lower down the list at the moment.

But businesses are being warned to expect an increase in complaints as lockdown restrictions ease, with one in six people (16%) intending to pick up a complaint once life becomes more ‘normal’.

COVID-19 impact ‘varied’

The July 2020 Institute of Customer Service Customer Satisfaction Index (UKCSI) states that the impact of COVID-19 has varied across sectors and organisations. Customer satisfaction with Public Services, especially Local Services, has improved, whereas the Tourism and Insurance sectors appear to have been adversely impacted.

People will certainly have other things on their minds rather than complaining. However, at some point they will still need to get that refund. Whilst they may be more willing to wait they certainly aren’t going to allow themselves to be out of pocket. It could be that we see a sharp increase in complaints over the next few months or a steady increase at the very least. And, where consumers have been tolerant, if they have given a company time then they are likely to become more frustrated if a company then doesn’t deal with their issue swiftly.

We are likely to see complaint trends return to pre Covid rates and businesses need to ensure that they invest in customer service and complaint handling in order to provide both loyal and newer customers with excellent service. This will build reputation and retention and ensure that their business is in a good shape to survive and thrive.

The Complaining Cow free support for businesses

Join the Facebook Group 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 complaint handling.

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

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

The Complaining Cow Services

To see how The Complaining Cow can help you improve your customer service see Services.