Is there anything more frustrating these days than trying to contact customer services? Or spending ages searching company websites looking for the right email or head office telephone number?
When something you’ve bought malfunctions or you don’t receive the service you expect, like many of us you want to speak to someone who can resolve your problem quickly, efficiently and with the minimum of fuss.
It’s not that you want to cause trouble or make someone’s working life difficult, you just want what you’ve paid for and are entitled to.
In fact, everyone benefits if you complain in a way. Retailers and service providers should be actively seeking customer feedback, both good and bad, as a way of honing their customer offerings and maintaining that competitive edge.
You only have to look at what is currently being described as “the death of the high street” due to the onward march of online shopping, to conclude that the more retailers can improve and find ways to keep that vital communication going with their customers, the more likely they are to survive.
I always felt that, for example, ToysRUs might have had a better chance if it not only had a stronger online offering but if it had listened to the complaints such as you could never actually reach half the stock without a stepladder. Something Smyths Toys would do well to note.
I’ve written before about the nightmare of trying to get through to somebody on the telephone. Everything is automated and you seem to spend increasing lengths of time listening to pre-recorded messages to cover every possible GDPR angle!
Even today, not everyone has access to the internet or is comfortable using social media to make themselves heard. For this reason companies still need to make sure that telephone complaints are dealt with swiftly and efficiently. In particular, many members of the older generation have no choice but to either write or telephone. My parents are in their late 70s and will not pay for Broadband. Then there are those whose disabilities may prevent them from using a laptop or PC.
If you do want to make a complaint, finding a named contact or the right person to talk to can speed up your complaint. It’s worth doing your research before you go down what can occasionally seem like an endless tunnel of frustration and no response.
The bigger the organisation, the more difficult it is to get yourself heard. We all lead increasingly busy lives and we simply don’t want to spend hours trying to find the Asda Head Office Contact Number or remember the password, pin, special word or voice recognition phrase we were asked to set up last time (and didn’t write down).
As the busiest shopping period of the year approaches – Christmas and the New Year sales, knowing your legal rights is crucial. Whether you are buying online or in-store, make sure you understand when you are allowed to return items and what proof of purchase you need.
Some stores will not refund items without a receipt and will offer vouchers instead. Some stores set a time-limit on when goods can be returned. Gift cards can be a minefield too. If a store goes into administration then these may not be accepted. You may have read about a lot of very unhappy House of Fraser gift card holders who are waiting to see if Mike Ashley, the boss of Sports Direct who has reportedly bought House of Fraser will honour them.
I was recently horrified to discover that the £100 of Love2Shop vouchers I had been saving had a time-limit too and are now worthless. Love2Shop themselves are strangely quiet on the matter.
After doing your research and finding the right person to complain to, whether by using the head office telephone number or firing off an email, text or tweet, the next most important thing is to have the confidence to stand your ground.
The more unscrupulous outlets will do their utmost to make complaining and reimbursement as difficult as possible.
Don’t be fobbed off. But do remember the old saying “you catch more flies with honey than vinegar”. Customer service representatives are human too and politeness is more likely to get you listened to than aggression and expletives.
You can find some great advice about your rights as a consumer at your local Citizens’ Advice Bureau or online at websites such as Which? or Martin Lewis’ excellent Moneysavingexpert.com.