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.”
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.
We've written a template for those who have switched bank accounts for ethical reasons and want to let their old bank know why they have done this – for anyone to adapt as they choose!#EthicalBanking #Divesthttps://t.co/TOLdZQgyZp pic.twitter.com/VMPRHRCMFI
— Ethical Consumer (@EC_magazine) October 7, 2020
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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