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Talking Trading Standards – with Leon Livermore, former head of CTSI

I talk with former CEO of the Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI). Leon Livermore, in a series of  interviews. In the first one we discuss his work at CTSI.

Leon in his kitchen

What is the CTSI?

Leon Livermore was the CEO of the CTSI, for almost 8 years until March 2021. The CTSI works with the Government, UK and EU Parliamentary institutions, businesses, consumer organisations and other regulatory bodies to maintain and improve customer protection. It is also responsible for reinforcing fair markets and supporting businesses in their legal duties, competitiveness and success.

Businesses need to be aware of/members of the CTSI as it helps them understand their legal obligations and enhances their reputation, profile and performance.

I’ve met him a few times at various events and sort of got on! I say “sort of” because over the years I’ve co-written two research reports on Alternative Dispute Resolution. (ADR) [1]. Both of these were highly critical of the CTSI and CAA, in particular, for their approval and monitoring of ADR schemes.

So I thought it would be interesting to have a chat about his time at CTSI and challenge him on ADR too!

When The Complaining Cow chatted with the former CTSI CEO Leon Livermore

 

The forum meeting Leon refers to in that clip was replicated:

How approval bodies are failing to properly approve and monitor Alternative Dispute Resolution -

 

Pride and enjoyment

But we started with the easy stuff! I asked Leon what achievement he was most proud of and what he had enjoyed the most during his time at CTSI. He was most proud of achieving chartered status, having applied for this a number of times, and having to sort out qualifications and other issues. This status placed the profession on the same footing as others and clearly gives CTSI the mandate from the UK Government (it is awarded by HM the Queen through the privy Council) to speak with authority on all matters of Trading Standards and competence.

He enjoyed the work involved with introducing and implementing the CTST-Approved Codes of Practice.

Leon Livermore ex CTSI CEO talks about his proudest achievements

The challenges of regulation and possible solutions – Challenges born of crisis but soon forgotten

When asked what the biggest challenge was, Leon was highly critical of the Government and the current regulatory system. He spoke of Grenfell and of Whirlpool and said how, at the time of the foot and mouth crisis, money was heavily invested in animal health and welfare which was subsequently reduced because people lose that collective memory for past disasters.

“Take 60-70% out of the regulatory network, no-one notices until it goes wrong.”

It doesn’t make sense to have around 220 individual local Trading Standards services now, he says. That model was designed when everyone shopped locally and they obviously don’t now! There is a disconnect, with Government saying that local Trading Standards should undertake the consumer-facing work but localities not having the funding to carry out that work. Recognising that no-one is going to change the structure of Trading Standards, he calls for accountability at the level of Central Government. Grenfell and Whirlpool brought a focus on safety and a Minister was put in place who could be held to account.

Leon Livermore former CTSI CEO talks with The Complaining Cow about challenges of working in CTSI.

Whirlpool drier recall – more spin than real action?

We discussed our joint contempt for how the Whirlpool situation was left to the local Trading Standards department in Peterborough when it was a national problem. I wrote about Whirlpool a lot on my blog, including a report in 2018 which brought together a number of Freedom of Information Requests and statements from relevant bodies. Whirlpool – The tumble dryer story without the spin. Leon spoke about having to sit “with the bad guys” in a meeting with BEIS (Department for Business, Enterprise, Industrial Strategy (I call them BEIGE!) and having to try and justify the decision made by the local authority, when it should never have been left to them. He also spoke of how CTSI “…called for a full recall ahead of Which? and anyone else” and that this was at the same time as Peterborough Trading Standards department was giving different advice to Whirlpool.

Although there was nothing wrong with the advice they gave, which was their job to do, it just “didn’t pass that mum’s testIt didn’t sit right but it is hard for a local regulator that is exposed to so much risk to follow the letter of the law, he said. He argues that this is when the national regulator needs to come in and say what is in the best interests of consumers and provide the quicker more simple solution

In 2018 the Office of Product Safety and Standards (OPSS) was established on the back of the Whirlpool events. Leon praised the set-up of the Food Standards Agency and their work with local authorities and hopes that the OPSS will work in a similar fashion and so if something similar ever happens again then work will be quicker. But he is concerned that faulty and dangerous machines are still being used. He wants a system that protects people more efficiently but that people’s memories are so short!

Leon Livermore former CTSI CEO discusses the Whirlpool events with Helen Dewdney

Next time in the interview series

Look out for the next episode where Leon and I talk ADR! Having had good debates, arguments and differences of opinion over the years, what does he think now? What will we agree on and what did he think went wrong. Most importantly, how could the ADR scene be improved?

Notes

[1] These reports were:

Ombudsman Omnishambles:  Serious unresolved issues affecting the operation of the ombudsman ADR system in the UK

and

More Ombudsman Omnishambles: The UK ADR landscape 20 months on…

 

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Bye bye Dave Lewis – every little helped!

Dave Lewis quits as Tesco Group CEO 30 September

It’s the end of an era.

Dave Lewis is leaving Tesco after six years as CEO. No cloud, no bad trading figures and no flash new job to go to. Pretty unusual! But then Dave was always quite unusual. And not in a weird way!

Six years ago I wrote to Dave just before he started at Tesco. I told him what I thought of the outgoing CEO, Philip Clarke and how I had successfully taken Tesco to court in the previous year. He invited me to meet him and to discuss what consumers thought about Tesco. I liked Dave’s comment in his email “Keep on complaining because that is how we will improve” and waited a while for Dave to settle in before contacting him again. In fact, I waited a couple of weeks, making contact during the week when the story broke about the financial irregularities and suspension of key Tesco personnel. Believing that it would be just what Dave wanted, to meet me because, well he wouldn’t be that busy would he? And even if he was he might like a little bit of light relief. To give him credit he met me the following week. And for nearly three hours too!

Tesco Group CEO Dave Lewis Helen Dewdney in store

I found him to be genuine and personable. Clearly far more interested in what customers, past, present and future thought of Tesco than his predecessor, who in my opinion was greedy and it backfired. Dave wanted to listen to customers and get it right for them and the profits would follow. He was right.

I believe that his answers to the questions below back up what I think about him. For example, his advice on giving positive feedback about good service. He is very much more a people person than one to use social media and Internet, except when he has to (his emails to me were often filled with typos! 😉 )

Over the years I wrote a guest post for Tesco, met the executive team, interviewed the new Chief Customer Officer, disagreed many times on the notorious issue of Fake Farms and adverts (I still maintain that I was right!) and other things, culminating in an exclusive interview with the UK CEO, Matt Davies and Dave Lewis, the only interview that they did together.

Tesco | Complaining Cow meets Dave Lewis and Matt Davies

You can read more about my time working with Tesco in Case study: Tesco and a consumer champion

Here are the answers from Dave Lewis in response to my questions, as part of the interview series “The complaining habits of public figures and those in the consumer world”:

Dave Lewis interview on his complaining habits

1)  Generally, do you complain to a company regarding a faulty item?

If a product is faulty then like anyone else I would want one that isn’t. It’s not that I am complaining as such, but I think it’s fair to speak to the company and seek a replacement. It’s what I would expect of any Tesco customer.

2)   How much does the likely redress have to be before you will complain and why?

I don’t think about it that way…context is important. If I have a bad customer experience because someone made a genuine mistake, I probably wouldn’t complain. We have all had those days. If, on the other hand, I don’t feel valued by a company and I have had a bad customer experience, I will mention it.

3)   How well do you know your legal rights (Consumer Rights Act, different sectors regulations etc.)

I’m no lawyer but I have an understanding. Thankfully, I have never had to refer to them.

4)  If you receive service over and above good do you give feedback? How?

I try to give positive feedback to the individual, in the moment – but of course, there are times when I take good service for granted, as I’m sure many of us are guilty of doing. A thank you goes a long way. I know from speaking to Tesco colleagues that it is always welcome.

5) If you receive poor service how many people do you tell (include your social media followers too!)

I’m not on social media but if I had poor service I would mention it as appropriately as possible in the moment.

6)  If you receive good service how many people do you tell?

Probably not enough – but again I do try to share my appreciation in the moment with the person who gave the great service.

7)  If you don’t really complain or it has to be a significant amount in question before you will, what stops you from complaining?

As I mentioned before, if there is a problem that can be resolved (ie. faulty product), I will try and resolve it. Otherwise, like many people I expect, I don’t want to spend time dwelling on it.

8)  What do you think of using social media to complain?

I would always rather have a conversation with someone, but I know some of our customers find social channels quick and helpful and we have a fantastic social team working at Tesco to help customers with all sorts of questions.

9)  Is customer service/being able to gain redress a factor when deciding where to purchase an item

Not at all. I think it’s fair to expect good service wherever you choose to shop and your rights apply everywhere.

Looking at this through a Tesco lens, customer service contributes to the whole shopping experience. As I mentioned earlier, it’s not always about being able to get a refund but it is about feeling valued and it absolutely has an impact on where people choose to shop. We are constantly talking to our customers and measuring the overall experience in store, which includes questions like are colleagues helpful? Did you have to queue for a long time? I think all these things add up to the overall shopping experience.

10) Do you ever contact a CEO of a company? If so at what point in the complaint process?

No, as I said earlier I try to deal with good and bad service in the moment.

11)  If you have ever used an ADR scheme (ombudsman/mediation/arbitrator) or gone to Small Claims Court tell us about it

No, it’s not something I’ve ever had to do.

About Dave Lewis

Dave Lewis head shot

Dave Lewis joined the Board of Tesco PLC as Group Chief Executive on 1 September 2014.  Over the last six years he has led a successful turnaround of the UK’s leading food retailer.

Before joining Tesco he worked for Unilever for nearly 30 years in a variety of roles across Europe, Asia and the Americas.  His last role at Unilever was President for Personal Care globally.  He has also been a non-executive director of Sky PLC.

Dave will step down as Group Chief Executive of Tesco on 30 September 2020, and will be succeeded by Ken Murphy.

Help with your complaints

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

 

If you need help with complaining effectively and making sure you are never fobbed off. GET THE BOOK! How To Complain: The ESSENTIAL Consumer Guide to Getting REFUNDS, Redress and RESULTS!

 

 

 

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5 Ways How You Can Care About Vulnerable Customers

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See more in the The Complaining Cow interview series.