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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)


Hi Hubu,

You’re right that small companies can still deliver great service and can often be nicer to deal with than the big guys. Our more industry-specific customer satisfaction surveys include small brands too, and they sometimes top the tables.

I certainly prefer dealing with small brands when it comes to asking a question.


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” 🙂


Overseas call centres did come up in some of the comments from our survey respondents. Which brands have you dealt with that use call centres outside of the UK? Have you struggled to make your query understood?