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There’s no excuse for bad customer service

Men shaking hands in shop, black and white photo

I’m fed up with companies not treating their customers properly. Companies have to get their act together and improve their customer service, and we need your help…

There’s no getting away from the fact that customer service matters – in our survey of 2,000 Brits, 61% said they had avoided a company because of its bad customer service reputation.

And now our research has uncovered the most common customer service problems in the UK. These range from complaints not being taken seriously, to staff knowledge not being up to scratch.

My first thought when I read the results was that we’ve all been there. From the person on the end of the phone whose main aim is to pass the buck, to the shop assistants who have plenty of time to chat to each other but not to give you the help you need.

And some of us get it much worse than others – just spare a thought for the 2% of people who have been sworn at!

Real Customers, Real Service

At Which? we regularly get emails, tweets, letters and phone calls from people who are in despair because they’ve been badly treated by a company that’s not willing to sort out their problem. And we’ve had enough. Not of your stories, but of bad customer service. We think it’s time to make a stand and we need your help.

We want you to share your stories about good and bad customer service. We’ll use this information to put customer service at the heart of our articles, to highlight good and bad practice, to get companies to raise their game, and to arm you with the advice you need to beat the baddies.

Good and bad customer service

I’ll kick things off. One of my most frustrating experiences of bad customer service was a Sainsbury’s shop assistant who wouldn’t help me track down peanut butter as, according to him, it didn’t exist. But I’ve also had plenty of good experiences, such as a waiter at the restaurant chain Ping Pong who chatted with my kids and made my toddler laugh.

So tell us your stories, both good and bad, to help us improve customer service for everyone.

Mike says:
3 July 2013

I placed an order for a washing machine and a dryer, I was told it would be delivered in about five days. it is now two weeks later and I still have not heard anything back from them! I have paid for the goods already by credit card online!

I keep ringing and emailing them, but nobody ever gets back to me! I will never shop at John Lewis again!

tabbyturbo says:
5 July 2013

Sky+ with 2 multi room boxes, It started with a box refusing a call back request from Sky even though it was correctly attached to phone line as required by contract. The first i knew of the issue was when they took an £90 extra out of my account for “:Multi room violation ”
After a couple of panicked calls to sky customer service and technical department they said the issue was resolved but my refund would take 5 working days to be done..
Roll on 6 months and this has happened 3 more times and i have had 2 call outs to try resolve the problem and so i get my money refunded. This month was the worst, i was told they would only give me a credit to my Sky account because of it still happening.
I wasn’t happy so requested to speak to a manager please, i was informed that he was busy now but would call me the following afternoon. I thought that was odd and with 10 hours left in his day a 5 minute call wasn’t too much to ask for, i said it seemed a little unreasonable but ok. when i asked who would be calling me i was reluctantly given a first name, when i asked for second name, i was told they didn’t give out surnames and wait for a call. The phone was put down.
I never received that call or the one after that. . when i tried to cancel my system they asked if i would let them come out again first, then she said could she call me back with an appointment time in 5 minutes. I agreed….
I will be cancelling my subscription today if i don’t hear from them.

At Amazon, a Dvd hadn’t arrived so i called to ask if they could please send me a replacement .their customer services were so helpful, polite and even apologetic. It arrived the next day! so Thank you for your great customer service Amazon.

John Alborough says:
23 July 2013

Yale Doors. Avoid them. The doors fade, they don’t fit or lock properly and above all the level of customer service is appalling. We have been fighting them for over a year and still they have not resolved our problems with the doors.

Sidms says:
2 August 2013

RAC – appalling customer service

I purchased a Nissan with 3 years roadside assistance and than changed my number plate to a personalised one and simply wanted RAC’s records changed to show the new registration. I spent four weeks calling their various phone numbers, hanging on the line for upto an hour and than being told that their systems were down and they were unable to process my request. After four weeks and twelve phone calls, I asked to speak to a manager and the operator simply put the phone down.

Having paid for a three year cover, should I one day suffer a breakdown, I have now no confidence that the RAC service would be any better or will even turn up.

I will never again purchase any RAC products nor recommend them to anyone.

wev says:
2 August 2013

Have you tried writing to them? Try their complaints department if they have one, or ask for an escalation to a manager.

Sidms says:
2 August 2013

Thank you for your reply.

I have asked on a number of occasions to be put through to their complaints department but on each occasion the operators are unable/unwilling to transfer the call and instead gives out an 0800 number. It than takes RAC upto an hour to answer this number and than I receive the same story, “Our systems are down, can you call us back”. My view is that my request for details change is not a revenue regerator for RAC and they are simply not interested. No doubt, if I were to ask them to, for example, upgrade my membership, their systems would be OK to take my money.

wev says:
2 August 2013

You should try to get something in writing to them, maybe to their registered office or the chairman. Keep a copy of it and send it by registered post.

If you don’t get a reply, talk to the Citizens Advice Bureau.

Sidms says:
2 August 2013

Thank you for your kind comments. I will, over the weekend, take up your very good suggestion and write to the organisation along with comments on every motoring forum on the Internet.

Organisations that don’t want to know their customers after taking their money, don’t deserve to be in business.

It may be worth trying this if you have a Twitter account.

The official RAC Customer Care account. Ask questions, tell us about issues,


Sidms says:
3 August 2013

That is very interesting and useful bit of information, thank you. Yes I do have a twitter account and I will certainly try that route.

The thing that worries me the most is, if their service for something as simple as a number plate change notification is so appalling, how bad are things going to be if I do break down in the middle of the night and in the middle of nowhere.

I know you wish to change the registration on your RAC subscription because you intend to use a personalised number plate but all the breakdown services must get loads of requests to change the car details when their members change cars during their subscription period so it should be a simple process. Good luck.

PS. they also hve a facebook account: https://www.facebook.com/RAC

Sidms says:
4 August 2013

Thank you for the facebook link. Really grateful.

Twitter reply: please email membership@rac.co.uk or ring 0844 891 3111 and we will be happy to help.

Sidms says:
4 August 2013

I have been calling that 084 number for 4 weeks. After taking up to an hour to answer, RAC operators simply says that they cannot process my request because their systems are down. Apparently, their systems have been down for over four week, though, it’s alright to deal with revenue generating issues.

Well, I’m not planning to use Twitter, but perhaps someone would tweet them the geographical or free equivalent number and tell RAC off for using an 084 number.

There is a very useful website called SayNoTo0870 that lists alternative numbers for 0870/1 and 0844/5.
A geographical number for the RAC is listed as 01603 208129. There are also a few other numbers.

The alternative numbers don’t always work as companies seem to keep changing them, but this website is always my first port of call for a landline number.

steve says:
24 March 2015

0800550550 works several options before you get there

Sidms says:
4 August 2013

Thank you for the “SayNoTo08……” info.

The RAC appear to use Twitter like an operator service, in fact a lot of companies are like that. They want to have a presence on social media but you may as well pick up a phone and speak to their call centre for all the use their presence on Twitter is to their customers,

If their computers are down, how are they able to register new members?

I tweeted Virgin Media about a serious outage on Friday ( well over 12 hours) and I’m still waiting for a response.

I have just spoken to an RAC staff member and he said you should call 08000 722 822 and select option 4, you will then be speaking to Customer Services and they will change the registration for you. He said their computer system was down on two separate cassions recently but all is working now.

They also have other freephone numbers 0800 092 6607 and 0800 092 6622 listed under ‘Change your Details’ on their website but you have to speak to a staff member to change your registration details.

Good luck

Sidms says:
4 August 2013

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

I used Twitter quite a lot during The Open championship and now understand a little better how it works. Most of the tweeters just make lots of comments, very few comments receive a reply. So it is just like listening to loads of birds or toddlers happily wittering on without interacting with anybody. A most unsatisfactory form of communication. It is also difficult to see that you have had a reply to a comment as it does not appear as a new tweet but as conversation you have to reveal under the original tweet. I demanded attention from the RAC and they tweeted they had replied several hours earlier – I have still to find the first reply.

Facebook is much better but I try to keep it for personal use only and don’t want my friends and family to know I am Victor/Victoria Meldrew at heart.

I’m really angry with John Lewis and their attitude to my customer service complaint.
I ordered and booked a large fridge and freezer from them on 30th July. the delivery was confirmed for Wednesday 7th August. Someone from their organisation rang me and changed the delivery date to Friday 9th August. the time slot i was given was 2pm-9pm.
Twice on that Friday I rang them to see if they could give me any better idea of time which they refused to do.I think in today’s modern world with the communications we have that is downright awful. Do they really expect people to sit at home for seven hours so that they can have the privilege f receiving goods from John Lewis.
I gave them a total of four telephone number they could reach me on,my office number before 5pm,my home number,my mobile number and another one because I had to go out by 7pm and had arranged for a neighbour to come over and let them in.
As we hadn’t had any communication by 8.15pm I personally rang them again and they assurred me the items were on the van for delivery and would be delivered. I again confirmed my neighbours telephone number with them and they assured me they would ring before delivery.
When I arrived home about 10 pm there was a note in my letterbox saying they had tried to deliver but had not found anyone at home.
At about 8am the next morning they rang my neighbour. I then rang them myself and asked why they hadn’t rung either me or her the night before and they had admitted that there was a breakdown in communications.
They said the next time they could deliver was next Saturday,one week later. I explained that I had no fridge and no freezer. They said that was the earliest they could do and there was nothing else they could do to help me.
I explained that i had an 80 year old husband and next weekend I had friends coming to stay the lady of which has terminal cancer and how could I possibly cope for meals with no fridge and no freezer.
They were totally and utterly unhelpful. They really couldn’t care a toss. I explained that this was not the service that I had come to expect and they just kept repeating the same words over and over again.
I was looking for a solution,they had nothing they were prepared to offer.
They didn’t even suggest that if they sent one of their smaller vans out with the item they could have made an additional charge. They said if we wanted to pick it up ourselves we were welcome to do so.How they expect an 80 old year old man to do that amazes me.
Personally i will never use them again.

Scammedby johnlewis says:
8 September 2013

I paid JOHN LEWIS several hundred pounds online for a product to be delivered the next day by 10.30 am. It never arrived. I cancelled immediately as JL failed to fulfil their contractual obligation.

Have called 3 times and been on hold for up to 30 min and still not been refunded.

Have written 3 x and sent 3 emails and still not refunded.

Several days after i cancelled, they ttried to make delivery. Almost a week after i cancelled, they again tried to make delivery. The courier called me (at work) and i told him to go away as i had cancelled the previous week when they failed to fulfil NAMED DAY DEL PRE 10.30AM

The courier then texted me 2 abusive text messages to my work phone from his traceable mobile number. I complained to JL (again). Still no refund, apology, or assurances this individual will cease to communicate and will stay away from my home.

Received inane email from JL saying i needed to produce the del slip to claim a refund: well i dont have one as they FAILED TO DELIVER ON THE NAMED DAY BY THE AGREED TIME.

I have now served formal notice on JOHN LEWIS that i will pursue their breach of Distance Selling Regulations 2000 via the courts. That was another £6 for the special del letter on top of my wasted calls and letters – on top of the money they stole from me via my credit card.

I am stunned at this experience, I honestly would not have dreamed it in a million years – not from JL. This is without a doubt the most appalling service i have ever received.

Fiona Miller says:
1 September 2014

I have recently been stunned by JL’s customer service and am trying to work out if this is a blip or a trend… do we stop using them?
They ran out of a school uniform blazer of which they are the sole supplier. They have kept promising the school that it will be delivered – but it has not materialised. So my 11 year old starts a new school tomorrow with no blazer.
I’ve written a letter of complaint as customer services have been unbelievable unhelpful and even accusatory – implying that I had not phoned when in fact I had. More than 90 mins on hold…
So however good their stuff any confidence that they will provide efficient service and sort any problems has gone. Lets see if my complaint gets a good response?

Gordon Landles says:
17 September 2014

Today, 17th Sept.2014 I was very dissapointed with the customer service of JL. I bought on line an ipad and case for my wife, it was going to be a secret surprise present for her. The lady who took the call was pleasant and very helpful, I paid for both items and gave my name and mobile number for any queries. I was asked for my landline number but did stress that at all times I had to be contacted via the mobile phone if there was a problem.
An hour later JL,s customer services telephoned my landline, spoke to my wife and let the cat out of the bag, my surprise present for my wife now does not exist, she knows I am buying her a present, she knows what it is,the mega bites and colour. Well thank you very much – how inconsiderate.

John Lewis: they show no respect for the consumers

We have ordered 1 sofa and 2 armchairs on the 4 October.
Today it is the 15 November and we have still NOT RECEIVED OUR GOODS.
TWICE they scheduled the delivery and twice I had a phone call less than 24h before the delivery date to say the delivery was cancelled.
ON TOP OF EVERYTHING, I AM LEFT WITHOUT ANY ANSWER ABOUT WHEN I WILL HAVE THE GOODS AND WHAT IS GOING ON. After calling and writing emails to ask for a clear indication, the only answer I obtained was that someone will call me back. No one has ever called.
I am very frustrated and upset with their service. It is clear that John Lewis has NO RESPECT FOR THEIR CLIENTS.
I feel abused and powerless as they do not take my case into consideration. The distress they have caused is really important. I DO NOT RECOMMEND JOHN LEWIS TO ANYONE.

This is for Currys in Hedge End, Southampton.

So I wanted to buy a Samsung 7500, 4k, 3d, 55 inch TV.

I went to your shop in Hedge End to look at it and buy it. This was 2 days ago so the evening of the 30-th of December, 2014.

First I asked someone there if they could demonstrate the 3D experience of that TV. In a very snarky voice I was told that i need to wait since there are 5 people before me who want to look at various things.
I then asked a few questions of another staff member. The guy left me feeling that I wasn’t worthy enough of his time and he was downright rude. I never got the chance to check out the 3D because this second guy told me there are no 3D glasses available because customers stole them all !
I then asked if I can buy the TV, the guy told me it’s not in stock. When i asked when it was going to be back in stock he told me that he doesn’t know and they are not allowed to order any more. When I asked what kind of answer is that the guy told me that we can stay there to argue all day but I am not going to get that particular TV.

At this point I was already annoyed so I left. The next day I went to Richer Sounds in Southampton, asked someone to show me the 3D. They were very polite and took the time to answer all my questions. I left the shop after buying the TV and a nice surround sound system. All in all I spent over £2000 there and I was very happy with the experience. I will rate them a 10 on a scale from 1 to 10 and i will rate Currys as a -1 on the same scale.

Andy says:
5 January 2015

John Lewis hopless Customer Service and Delivery Depts.
To John Lewis Group,
1. I was under the impression that you would deliver my original laptop the following day at 14:00. I thought this was a guaranteed service, so I booked flights on this premise.
2. I was told a courier would deliver it at 17:00 the same day.
3. I was then told another courier would deliver the following morning. I re-booked again.
4. Instead of rapidly dispatching a new laptop for ‘same-day-delivery’ your ‘customer-services’ (for want of a better word) simply re-ordered the laptop for next day delivery (which is what I could have done) with a refusal of compensation (not for the flights, that is my issue). I could not see anywhere on your website where you suggest there could be even a chance of non-delivery.
5. I have spoken to 9 different people and not the same person twice at any time
6. Once the laptop actually arrived (48hrs late and at great cost to myself!) it had already been opened!!!
7. You offer an upgraded laptop (thankyou Martin).
8. I spent 2.15 hours calling them 3 times, emailed 10x, replied to 5x (from 36hrs to 3 days later each time and different people each time). Still offers no compensation, or stand by the email they sent saying they would upgrade the laptop. I will now write to the Board of John Lewis Group.

[This comment has been edited to align with our commenting guidelines. Thanks, mods]

Nirmal Singh says:
23 June 2016

Dear Sir

COMPLAINT REF. 0396 8950

I apologise for writing to you direct, I do feel left with little alternative but to do so.

After purchasing a television from your Liverpool Branch, I applied for and received a price match refund of £50.00
Believing that the refund of £50 had been applied to my store card, I today received my most recent John Lewis statement detailing the £50 with an interest charge of £6.81.

I refer you to the following……………….

23/06/16 –

10:30 Called 0345 300 3833 ( THE NUMBER ON MY STATEMENT!?)
Spoke to JACK – who after carrying out his checks stated that he works for HSBC and that he is unable to deal with my enquiry and concern.

10:57 Rais
Looked at my concern transferred me to Partnership Card Team – Call Disconnected.

10:58 Called John Lewis – Elise
Left my mobile number and obtained her contact details – 03456 04049 Her Ext:- 205604

Transfered me to

Rosh – Customer Services Call Logged 11:08


Absolutely horrified and shocked by this unwarranted remark, I waited until Rosh had finished blabbering on, asked if he had finished speaking and stated that I wished to complain regarding his remark.

After being placed on hold for a while, Gary Hill (Rosh’s Manager – Internal No. 769 4814) spoke to me confirming that Rosh has told him of this remark, He agreed that this remark was unwarranted and not the manner of service that John Lewis

Call Ended – 11:45

I have been a customer of John Lewis for many, many years due to my appreation if the most excellent quality of customer service that you proudly promote. Rosh’s ill-mannered behaviour has deeply offended me in addition to letting all your positive
Team members who strive and make great efforts to positively promote the Jhon Lewis ethos.

I do hope that you are able to have this matter investigated, in addition to listening to the recording of my conversation.

I have now spent over an hour and half in trying to correct a £50 payment interest charge of £6.68 against my earnings of £150/h?

Yours Sincerely Offended

Mr N Singh

Arthur Sterling says:
1 August 2016

I sincerely hope that you made sure that Rosh was fired. It is simply unacceptable for someone to behave like this, Rosh seems like a nasty piece of work. Someone who I imagine earns not much more than minimum wage thinking that he can speak to a person who earns £150 per hour in this manner is absolutely ridiculous.

I suppose the only good thing about John Lewis is that if you stick your heels in the ground and complain to their ‘head of customer services’ you will get whatever you want from them. I would be pursuing a very, very large amount of compensation for something like that and would expect at the very least that the person was dismissed from employment.

Gabriela says:
6 December 2016

This a review I just posted on truspilot.

“On the 19th of October we ordered a Stoves Richmond mini range cooker from JLewis. Today is the 5th of December. We ordered it in Oct to make sure we have it by Christmas, to get used to it before cooking a big meal for our families. The one we have now is a very old cooker that leaks heat and is not fit for purpose at all so we wanted to get rid of it asap.

Our first delivery was scheduled for 31/10.The day came, the delivery guys were in the house for 5 minutes, they measured the distance between the worktop and the top cabinets and said that because it’s 2cm too low we have to remove the framing rail at the base of the top cabinets and call to reschedule the delivery. I was angry and they assured me that I will be given priority because it is not a new order, but an existing one. I just told them that I have a feeling it’s not going to be that simple.
Unfortunately I was right.

The next day we removed the bits and I called the number they gave me to reschedule. I must say the customer service representative I dealt with, a guy, was 100% high. He was clearly outside probably smoking and I had to explain the simple situation to him 5 times as he was extremly confused and couldn’t concentrate at what I was saying. He gave me a new delivery day, but as that was not suitable, he said to call the next day so I can talk with somebody else.
The next day I was told their systems were down and had call the next day. Again, I did. I explained the situation to yet another person, a woman, and was given the date 14/11 between 9-11am, 2 weeks after the initial date.

The 14th came, took the day off work, and at 9.25am while I was waiting for them, I get a call from the JLewis warehouse or something. They were letting me know that the delivery was not going to happen because the cooker was out of stock. They had it at my door and basically gave it to someone else! Even though you obviously still had my money, £649! At this point my partner called as I was too angry to deal with them in a civilised manner. He argued our case and all he got was “we will let you know when it is back in stock, even though we took your money and gave your stove to someone else and it is clearly our fault”.

On the 17/11 I got an email informing me that the item is back in stock. They booked a delivery slot and asked to call if it is unsuitable. Considering that we work to be able to buy the stove, it was unsuitable and we called to change it.

The third delivery was now for Today, the 5th of December between 7am-2pm. 20 days before Christmas! We were really worried last night as I had a feeling that something will happen.
At 9.40am I get a call from a familiar number. Guess what! John Lewis warehouse again! The voice of the same clueless woman. She let me know that the delivery won’t happen today because basically they don’t know how this order was placed. At this point I got incredibly angry with her. It was the third time I got the day off and the second time they called on the day and time the delivery was supposed to happen. I asked why they don’t call us a few days before at least so we are prepared, but she remained confused and clueless by my questions. Again she gave me a number and a reference. Anger took an emotional toll on me and I had to leave this with my partner as I couldn’t talk to them. He had to get out of a meeting at work so he could call them. What he found out is that John lewis is extremly disorganised. It all happened because of lack of communication between the depot and warehouse or something like that. It was definitely not our problem though.

We got a new delivery date now. This will be the fourth one, on 19/12. We were told that if this one fails we will not receive it in time for Christmas!
We were also told that they put down a formal complaint towards the warehouse, but if we don’t get compensation on this it just proves John Lewis has horrible customer service.

And when I thought it was done for the day my partner calls from a business trip at 7pm to tell me that the money we saved for the Christmas gifts for ourselves and the family is gone. Why? BECAUSE JOHN LEWIS CHARGED US £649, AGAIN!

Because of John Lewis we cannot buy Christmas presents! It’s the first Christmas we’re having with both our families in our house and we barelly have the money saved for food.

So we now have paid twice for a cooker that we don’t have and we won’t have any Christmas gifts to put under the tree!

Thank you John Lewis for terrible customer service! You have put us through hell and you have taken our hard earned money from us! To think we chose you because of the good customer service reputation!”

That is awful.
If you decide to exchange it for another model, I do not recommend Rangemaster 60cm cookers. They are made in Turkey although Rangemaster state on their website all their cookers are made in UK. Spare parts are not available in the UK, the cookers have many problems, which is probably why they are around £300 cheaper than a year ago.

That is a terrible tale Gabriela, but I am not sure that telling it to Trustpilot and here will get you far unless John Lewis are paying attention. You need to bring it directly to the attention of senior management at John Lewis as it reflects very badly on their reputation for customer service and you should request complete fulfilment in time for Christmas. Hopefully, broadcasting your experience on websites will cause the company some embarrassment and lead to them sorting out the problems within their warehouse and delivery operations, but you need completion of your contract with no more aggravation. I think you should e-mail the Chief Executive’s office and demand a response at the highest level. You should certainly have the duplicate payment reversed as a matter of extreme urgency; if it was made with a credit card try speaking to the card issuer.

I’d contact their CEO by email. I hope this is up-to-date:
Mr Dino Rocos Operations Director and acting Managing Director
Email dino_rocos@johnlewis.co.uk

Incidentally I believe JL online order organisation was subcontracted to Capita (think it was them). I hope they deal with John Lewis’s affairs better then they do the government’s.