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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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Closure of branches particularly in rural areas where no other branch is available within 4 miles

Jean Routledge says:
6 November 2014

The most annoying thing for me and my partner is having to use telephone banking where the person dealing has a strong accent which we cannot understand – trust me, this gets worse as you get older, even though my hearing is perfect.

The cost of the calls is a high irritant to me

Denis Calvert says:
6 November 2014

Foreign call centers, I find it hard to understand them. But I do not blame them, the greedy firms who have little if no interest in their customers are to blame. It should not be long before there are no workers in the over seas call centers, they will all be over here. We are doomed.

annoyed says:
6 November 2014

I’ve been with NatWest for a long time because they still have a good local branch network and I liked their comprehensive automated telephone service. Even more annoying that I have been unable to access the automated telephone service since January 2013. After 3 complaints the problem has been identified as an IT problem related to the type of mortgage I have with NatWest. I have been given £50 as a good will at the end of each of the 3 complaints and been assured that the IT team is working on the problem, but I still cannot use the automated telephone service which used to be my main way of banking. I once escalated the issue to the FSA, who declined my complaint on the ground that I received adequate compensation and they cannot make NatWest fix the problem. Hence I am back to branch banking. It is more inconvenient than the telephone service, but I got to know the staff at the local branch really well. They are all very helpful, especially Hilary.

Freda Windmill says:
6 November 2014

We have been with First Direct since it began and have NO complaints whatsoever. Calls are answered immediately by a real person and queries dealt with in a timely, efficient and professional manner.

Alison Kirk says:
10 November 2014

The thing that annoys me the most besides the extorionate charges is the way the staff still will not sit down with you on a one to one and just help you to sort out your finances without getting you to open some new account. When you are tight financially, sometimes you just need to talk to someone about which of your insurance policies is really not necessary or which are doubling up, so you can manage better.

Two years ago I went down to London to see friends and also at the time went to one of the main John Lewis stores in London to buy one of my friends some SEBO dust bags for their vacuum. Due to their high pressure job they rarely get a chance to shop and knowing I was going to JL store, they asked me to get the bags. When I got to the department I had to wait an HOUR to get service since the shelf was clean out of the product. The sales boy who served me had no clue and said that they were sold out. I asked him to check, to which he blankly ignored me and threw his hands up in the air, to which I demanded to see a manager. Eventually I had the pleasure of meeting a fellow Scot – a lady who recognised that I knew a bit more than the sales person. I pleaded with her to find the dust bags – to which she dragged the guy down to the warehouse whereupon they found a whole trolley few of accessories. In short, John Lewis, which is one of my favourite dept stores sometimes do get it wrong – but I have never been back to buy bags from there – and sadly for JL, I don’t think I will be, again.

LauraL says:
12 November 2014

getting the answer “Sorry, there is nothing i can do.” Often over and over… so frustrating!

Actually, there is a really good video of a customer rant. It has swearing in it, but it proves that not everyone in customer sales knows what they are doing! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K0e-he_dU58