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Are we being served? Not by big firms in Britain

 Published on: 22nd January 2014   |   By: Nik Allen

When it comes to customer service in this country there seems to be a rule of thumb: the bigger the firm the worse you will be treated.
I have made my feelings known in the past about this issue – with BT taking the brunt of my complaints.

But it doesn’t seem to be getting any better, in fact things seem to be going downhill fast.

What really annoys is the latest trend – after using the services of a big energy firm or bank you are likely to get a call a day or so later. Who will it be? The customer service team from the big firm you are dealing with to see if you are happy with the service you received.

It’s obvious they know they are not getting it right and think if they employ a team of people in call centres to ask if they got it right you will somehow forget that actually they got it wrong. Well no, we are not that stupid, a call from a chirpy call centre operator only makes things worse.

As I said earlier I have written about BT’s appalling service in the past. Every time I have ever had to relocate my business, the biggest problem has been BT. The last time I moved I factored in the fact that they would mess things up. I actually had an analogue phone system installed before we even moved because I just knew my digital system would not be up and running in time despite the fact I gave them many months notice. And true to form it wasn’t (no one can say they aren’t consistent).

A friend of mine recently recalled a similar tale of incompetence. When preparing to move house she notified BT well in advance she would need her broadband switched over. No problem they said it will be simple.

In fact when she moved BT informed her they could not locate a line at the property and would have to send an engineer around – in four weeks time. When she pleaded for an earlier date as she works from home and needs the internet she was told no, as she wasn’t “terminally ill” there was nothing they could do. Really? A massive organisation (which no doubt employs loads of customer service experts) divides customers into only two categories: the terminally ill (who hopefully get some kind of service) and the rest, who just have to lump it. What kind of company policy is that?

Another friend was infuriated by HSBC. After placing a large sum of money into what she thought was an account with instant access and no exit charges she received a call from the customer services team. Was she happy with the service? Was she aware she couldn’t touch her money for three months? When my friend said there had been an error and this was not what she had asked for the customer services woman paused for breath – and then promptly continued with her survey. It seemed completing the customer service survey was the end goal, not actually serving the customer.

For some reason Britain’s big firms just can’t seem to get this right. I always find the best personal service comes from firms where the owner is heavily involved. This doesn’t seem to be the case in the US or Australia where big firms seem capable by and large of being nice to the people they take money from. It’s really not that hard is it?

Is it a cultural thing? Are we Brits too polite to speak up and shout if need be? Or have we just been pounded down by years of poor service. Either way it’s time we did something about it. Next time you see one of those bloody annoying BT Infinity ads on television stop and think how we can get big firms to start treating its customers properly.

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