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Don’t have a nice day! Your customer service gripes


Irritating hold music. A queue that nearly stretches out the door. Rude staff. There are so many ways to get customer service wrong. Is anyone getting it right? What’s your biggest customer service frustration?

I used to work in retail and I know it’s not always easy to keep a cheery smile on your face during a long day of rushing around and helping customers. But out of all possible aspects of bad customer service that wind me up, it’s staff being rude or plain old grumpy.

Now, I don’t think I’m a particularly difficult customer to deal with. I’m generally pretty cheerful with sales and customer service staff, because I know their jobs are not easy. Unfortunately I don’t always get the response I want.

When my sincere cheerfulness is met by a stony expression and the feeling that I’m getting in the way of an otherwise pleasant day, it doesn’t leave me with a good impression of the company I’m dealing with.

100 big brands rated by customers

Our latest survey uncovers the best and worst brands for customer service, and it includes 100 of the UK’s biggest brands including supermarkets, banks, travel companies and energy suppliers.

We also asked people to choose their top customer service irritation. The three most annoying frustrations are synonymous with telephone customer service: automated phone systems, being passed around different departments and annoying hold music.

Phone without the fury

Telephone service doesn’t have to be infuriating. The top-scoring brand in our survey manages to deliver a great service without any face-to-face interaction.

So what’s the big difference? Well there are lots of behaviours that make up great customer service, one of which is not making you work through a maze of automated menus. But that seems to be rare these days.

What’s the best customer service you’ve received over the phone? When was the last time you were left frustrated when trying to make a simple purchase or find the answer to a straightforward question?

Which of these customer service gripes are most irritating? (Pick up to three)

Automated telephone systems (23%, 909 Votes)

Long queues (15%, 600 Votes)

Being passed around lots of people (13%, 507 Votes)

Trying to sell you unwanted products (11%, 435 Votes)

Annoying hold music (10%, 406 Votes)

Receiving a standard response to problems (8%, 323 Votes)

Lack of knowledge about products or services (6%, 240 Votes)

Having to wait for help or a response (5%, 218 Votes)

Rude staff (5%, 196 Votes)

Staff talking to each other (3%, 130 Votes)

Other - tell us in the comments (1%, 50 Votes)

Total Voters: 1,466

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It’s very clear to me of those companies who invest in the value of customer services and those who just say they do as a means to increase sales. Good service is seamless and always easy. My biggest bugbear is as per survey; automatic phone systems and a myriad of options, the worse ones with recorded messages trying to sell another service while you wait!

What’s the best customer service you’ve received over the phone?

That’s a hard question to reply to as 99% of my phone calls with companies are always amazing. Why? Well it’s because I would tweet or e-mail a company & ask them to call me. And as my Twitter photo is me on ITVNews is also helps the company treat me with a little bit more respect. As Tesco say “Every Little Helps”

But if i had to mention a company it would have to be the Nationwide, now they really do give awesome customer service. They may brake the rules sometimes as when they call me as they don’t always ask the security questions, but apart from that they are really helpful on the phone.

Have just found this article having seen a tweet from The Lanky Jeans Co. (lankyjeans.com) and have to say that even though (or perhaps because?) they are online only, they have provided by far the best customer service me and my wife have had in quite a while. Sometimes I think these “smaller” companies go the extra mile. We both couldn’t find what we were looking for (being tall and not on the large side -why do so many business ignore the niche within the niche?) so we emailed them and they rang us straight back. A normal, “human” conversation ensued, the upshot being we got what we wanted. Can’t it just be this simple? Other (national) businesses that have been great are Sainsbury’s (not always happy with choice but customer service desks brilliant) and the National Trust (ok so not a company in the traditional sense, but still providing a service)

This is a very timely discussion. Today we phoned Miele as our washing machine has broken down. After waiting 11 minutes on the phone repeatedly being informed that they have ‘award winning customer service’, we were given a waiting time of 8 days before an engineer can come out to fix it!

You missed off overseas call centres

I think those come under “all of the above” 🙂

Virgin Media use overseas call centres. I hate knowing more about their gear and their problems than the people who answer the phones and only have scripts to read from. The problem isn’t being understood but having to go through their entire script to get to the point in the conversation I needed to get to at the start of the call and not 10 mins later.

Bookworm says:
18 September 2014

And having gone through all the scripts that is at your expense a lot of the time. I know if you have a Virgin Media phone that they pay for the call, but other companies which use overseas call centres don’t always give their customers that luxury. And why should you have to pay to report a fault with their systems?!!

L Broady says:
17 September 2014

Foreign call centres. I know immediately that my problem won’t be understood and I also feel furious to be employing people overseas to do a job British people need. Even more outrageous, it means that all my financial etc details are accessible by sweat shop workers often in third world countries.

But automated call systems drive me crazy too – First Direct is a breath of fresh air, an real person asks you what the problem is and directs your call themselves if they can’t deal with it.

Bookworm says:
18 September 2014

And also Saga. I have dealt with their customer services handlers and they have always been brilliant.

what is most infuriating to me,is customer service people with no power(s) ,to do the common sense thing to resolve the problem,even if they want to! phone amazon to tell them of a problem lets say late dispatch,” have you contacted the seller”, yes,but they can take up to 3 working days to reply,and if a weekend is in there,5 days.this is ridiculous,because email is supposed to be instant communication,so all you get told is to wait for a sellers reply,which,when it is time sensitive is missing the point ot contacting them.very often there is a simple answer to most problems,but cs person is not allowed to do it,which just makes contacting them pointless and frustrating. i have run my own business for 27 years,and if i treated my customers like amazon,and most of the big companies,i would have been out of work decades ago.just imagine turning up on a customers doorstep,giving them an enormous list of terms and conditions,that didnt guarantee either a service or product,allowed you to ignore them for up to 5 days,do nothing,but take their money upfront,dont do what you have said you will,then just give them back their money after 4-8 weeks,which is how amazons a-z guarantee works,then tell them you are customer centric!you have had nothing but wasted time,no money,no service or goods,and have had to waste even more time trying to get your money back,and amazon are PROUD of this “service”. worse still,is buying something in digital form,only to find out,that you have only rented in under licence,which with apple for instance,is a document LONGER than the magna carta,and gives the consumer no rights at all.and with respect to Lee,we dont all go on national tv,so we are mostly ignored and marginalized

I am a marketplace seller on Amazon – books – and I can tell you that if I do not reply to a customer’s email withing 24 hours I will be penalised harshly and see points knocked off my rating. I can assure you that I never allow this to happen!

Bookworm says:
18 September 2014

I hate that the “options” menu doesn’t always give you what you want and there is no way of seeking a “real person” for help and also that if you phone 10 minutes before the end of their working day your call (having gone through the multitude of options) mysteriously gets cut off and when you re-dial going through all those options again you receive the message that the office is now closed!

Would definitely say foreign call centres, when the people at that call centre don’t fully understand you and it’s very hard to hear and decipher what they are saying. I feel they don’t address the problems you explain to them and they don’t quite catch every word you’re saying. I don’t experience these problems with UK-based call centres.

El Kapitan Des Locos says:
20 September 2014

glenaim is BANG on the money there – licensing terms longer than the Magna Carta, and if you spend your two hours+ unpaid time studying the terms, you find out that they’re completely insane for the customer to accept!

WHERE is the government action on this versus the stated aims and principles of the Sale Of Goods Act and the Supply Of Goods and Services Act…
Ah yes, sold out to the EU and when a company is based in some faceless Luxembourg tax haven zone, and actually an American company, then they don’t get to face their accusers, do they?

BEWARE ‘Fulfilled by Amazon’ it is meaningless, legally.

SOLD BY is the legally-binding term – and that’s always the little seller who is doing the (for legal purposes) selling.

I prefer to sue the big companies with plenty of money to pay damages or costs, when I win…

Why should we be charged for waiting in a queue? A few years ago, this never happened. It’s similar to being charged a fixed ‘call set-up fee’. What is this charge for? Wasn’t it just invented by phone companies to get around restrictions in call charge increases? Once again, a few years ago such a charge never existed.

I didn’t notice Microsoft in any of the categories.
My experience of Microsoft customer service rates a score of NIL.
I’d be interested to hear of how others have fared!

Ken Parsons says:
1 October 2014

Apart from the usual computer calls about boiler, solar panels,insulation, PPI, Hearing damage, Accidents, I am driven daft by the number of calls I receive from one of our asian bretheren in some call centre in the Indian sub-continent who after mispronouncing my name numerous times goes on to ask me about my lifestyle in a survey about leading consumer products.
It’s bad enough when the caller speaks perfect English.

Also, when I ring up to report a problem with something and I am connected to a call centre where English appears to be their third or fourth language. Try as one might you can never get anything but a stock answer from them.
I have been told that it is possible to ask to be connected to an British call centre but haven’t tried that yet

Jacqueline Edwards says:
5 October 2014

Companies that waste your time with recorded messages telling you how wonderful they are – that “your happiness is of paramount importance” to them! This is particularly frustrating when you are ringing to point out their deficiencies and request/demand an improvement! You know that they are failing to provide – are incapable of provoding? – even the most basic standard of service,

Michael says:
7 October 2014

Heavily accented staff. N Irish, Liverpool,Glasgow but even worse (I think) Filipino and most Indians.

Ian Fraser says:
17 October 2014

Absolutely agree. I frequently have to keep asking Indian and Scottish customer service people to repeat what they say. Whilst an accent is OK, those with very strong accents shouldn’t be placed in the frontline

Derek says:
10 October 2014

Unsolicited ‘cold’ calls are becoming an increasing irritation. Unless a caller leaves a message I no longer answer my land-line ‘phone.

Cold calling could be easily dealt with by blocking that number. I do not see why anyone is allowed to telephone without revealing their number. It should be made
impossible for anyone to telephone and conceal their number. Police and security forces should have to get special permission from a magistrate or Government minister, and no one else.

Ian Fraser says:
16 October 2014

Why must we have 08 numbers to phone anywhere. My phone supplier charges for all of these calls quite heavily. Surely a landline number isn’t too much to ask for. Always free within mobile minutes.


As from June of this year laws came in so it’s harder for companies to still use 08 numbers & to move to 01,02,03 numbers instead. Banks & credit card companies are making the change in 2015 (Also June I think).

What company are you having problems with? Then we might be able to help.

Ian Fraser says:
17 October 2014

Banks seem to be among the worst. They almost don’t want you to be able to get hold of your branch. However, virtually any company that you access through the internet gives an 08 number to phone (usually a ‘FREE’ 0800 number)

But as i was saying Ian, from June companies must have a local rate (01,02,03). 0800’s will be perfect as from next year they will be free from mobiles too. But as from June this year they must have a normal number, not a 0845/0844/0871 etc.

Ian Fraser says:
17 October 2014

Thanks for that

Adrian Smith says:
4 November 2014

Is this true Lee?
There are still lots of companies that only give 0845 numbers for customer services.

It is true Adrian, which have done a few blogs since June naming and shaming companies who have not moved over from 0845’s yet with it being the law now to have a 01,02 or 03 number.

Lee Beaumont, this is a bit off topic but do you live in or within commuting distance of London?

Never lived close to London. I’m in Yorkshire – only go down to London for media work 🙂

foreign call centers that don’t understand English or get stuck on simple dialect .

Alan Jones says:
6 November 2014

Not being able to talk to your own bank. Long queues, reason, because the staff behind the counter are sorting out problems instead of sending the customer to customer services. Also at 10-00am 4 staff on duty lunchtime 2 staff on duty, staff gone to lunch the bank not providing meal break cover.