VICTORIA BISCHOFF: It’s time to tell companies to end their shoddy customer service
Today, Money Mail is relaunching its Wooden Spoon awards for shameful customer service.
Loyal readers will remember this contest well, as it was an annual fixture in December for almost a decade.
And judging by the number of votes we received each year, it proved enormously popular among disgruntled customers eager to have their voices heard.
Exasperation: We hope naming and shaming the worst performing firms will deliver the kick up the you-know-what firms need to finally get their customer service back on track
It was your chance to stick it to the firms which had driven you to despair that year. And for the company awarded the unwanted gong, it was an opportunity to explain what had gone wrong and, crucially, how they would put things right.
Then something wonderful happened. Our postbag, which had been groaning under the weight of your letters, became noticeably lighter.
Complaints about poor service dwindled in quantity and severity. It was a refreshing change.
And when we launched a new Service Star prize that year, we were inundated with tales of firms going above and beyond for their customers. It seemed they had at last responded to our continued pressure and upped their game.
But three years — and a pandemic — later, customer service standards have slipped to a worryingly new low. Every week we hear from scores of readers who say they just cannot get through on the phone to speak to anyone.
From banks to government departments, you are left on hold for hours at a time — with an automated voice telling you over and over again to go online instead.
Some have even sneakily removed their helpline numbers and email addresses from their websites, or hidden them out of sight. It’s as though organisations simply do not want to speak to their customers any more.
Even those lucky enough to get through to a human eventually are still left pulling their hair out, with staff seemingly unable to answer the most basic questions.
My team now struggles to make a dent in the mountain of emails and letters we receive from readers desperate for help chasing refunds.
Of course, we know companies were dealt a hammer blow by Covid. And during the first lockdown, we encouraged readers to be patient as firms got to grips with a new way of working, with vast swathes of staff suddenly based at home.
But your patience has been exploited. Firms have had long enough to get on top of their call wait times and clear any backlogs. And like most people I speak to these days, I’m so fed up with the ‘because of Covid’ excuse for shoddy service I could scream.
After nearly a decade at Money Mail, I truly cannot remember a time when customer service across the board has been so appalling.
We know things go wrong at big firms. But it should not take dozens of phone calls and letters for action to be taken.
So it is with heavy hearts that we have dusted off our Wooden Spoon award.
We hear complaints about hundreds of companies, but have whittled them down to a short-list of ten firms — all of which have made far too many appearances in our postbag over the past year.
As we explain here, we are calling on you to vote for who you think deserves to pick up the award top bosses dread winning.
We hope naming and shaming the worst offenders will deliver the kick up the you-know-what that firms need to get their customer service back on track.
When the cap on contactless payments was raised to £100 in October, most major banks promised to allow customers to set a lower limit.
They acknowledged many would be concerned about the increased risk of fraud or worried about overspending.
Yet some firms are now saying customers can set their own limit if they download their mobile banking app. What nonsense.
It doesn’t take a genius to work out that if someone is uncomfortable using contactless cards, there is a good chance they may also be nervous about signing up for mobile banking.
And there is no reason why banks can’t also offer this service to customers over the phone or in branch.
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