/ Shopping

Who’s smashed your customer service expectations?

Good customer service in a shoe shop

When choosing where to buy a product or service, is good customer service more important than the lowest price? If you go for a low-budget option, are you happy to receive low-quality customer service?

Customer service is important to me and has a big influence on which companies I spend money with. Dealing with a company that never gets back to me, doesn’t answer my queries or employs unhelpful, rude or untrained staff can be frustrating and inconvenient to say the least.

So, if I’m given a choice, I always opt for companies with friendly, knowledgeable staff – particularly if I’m making a big purchase or it’s a company that I’ll have to deal with regularly. In these cases I don’t even mind splashing out a little extra cash if it means I can be sure of better customer service.

Of course, it’s all relative. If I’m using a budget brand I don’t expect them to roll out the red carpet and pop the champagne every time I arrive in the store, or play a fanfare when I call them up. But downright bad customer service is something that none of us should have to put up with.

If a company can’t be bothered to invest a little time and money in good staff training, then why should I invest my time and money in their product or service?

Awful customer service really makes me think twice about using a company, regardless of how much I like their products or how cheap they are in comparison to other brands.

Customer service worth shouting about

In a previous Conversation many of you shared examples of customer service, both good and bad. CASussex had a mixed experience with Truprint:

‘I had a problem web-ordering a Truprint photo book back in January. After several emails, having to upload problem snaps (heads cut off, etc), re-uploading the lot and re-ordering (same result), I requested a refund that I finally received today (after re-registering payment card on my web account). Throughout, the company was quick to respond, courteous and helpful, but the initial product was not fit for purpose.’

Tabbyturbo had a positive experience with Amazon, recent winners of a Which? Award for customer care:

‘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.’

A friendly service has made a big difference to Mary-Ann:

‘I want to commend two companies which have consistently provided us with excellent customer service. They are: The Co-operative Bank and Good Energy (electricity and gas). Probably no surprises there, but every time I need to call (not frequently), I have gotten through quickly, the customer service agent has been courteous, friendly, efficient and have provided the information I need or taken care of the problem. I wish I could say that about all companies I have to deal with.’

How important is customer service to you? Would unhelpful staff put you off using a company full stop? Or are you able to look past poor customer service if other factors, such as price or product quality, are right?

Which companies have treated you exceptionally well or exceeded your customer service expectations? Has a company ever treated you so badly that you’ve resolved never to use them again?

Ian says:
22 July 2013

Amazon.co.uk, First Direct and M&S provide consistantly very good customer service, Debenhams and Tesco Direct are reasonable. @BTCare and Sky are dismal.


For me, competence and quality of service are paramount. Once we tolerate unsatisfactory performance in commerce, things will only get worse across the board.


First Direct – Perfect service every single time.

TalkTalk – Utter incompetence, passed from pillar to post, foreign call centres you can’t understand, and then they have the audacity to phone me every month trying to get me to upgrade after I tell them the broadband is fine, the administration/customer service is shocking.


The companies mentioned so far are the obvious ones I would expect, so I thought I would mention an unlikely one – American Express. I know some people who’ve experienced problems with them, but in my 18 years as a customer, I’ve found them to be way ahead of any other credit card issuer in terms of customer service.

They are particularly good with disputed transactions, sometimes too good in that Amex will often swallow a loss to save themselves admin instead of charging an amount back to a merchant, which I find slightly annoying when it’s about a point of principle and I don’t want an merchant to get the money.

Gerard Phelan says:
23 July 2013

I am very satisfied with the service from Royal Bank of Scotland, who operate my current account.

I do not worry much about service when the product or service is an identical commodity – DVD, book, shampoo or cereal, but agree that where a relationship will exist then I require competence and will pay extra to avoid hassle.
Thus I am disappointed that Sky have bought my O2 broadband contract and will switch to BT when Infinity reaches my road.

British Gas failed to fix my boiler/flue despite years of paying their service contract, so I will never use their service division again.
Lakeland have always excelled at putting problems right as have John Lewis and Waitrose.

Sag111 says:
23 July 2013

I’ve had terrible customer service from John Lewis.

I was in a store for over an hour looking at ipod docks and hifis. The staff there asked a security guard to more or less throw me out.

I later bought several docks elsewhere with a total Recommended Retail Price of £2100. The next two I buy will each be more than £1600, and it won’t be at John Lewis. I’m not going to buy anything expensive from them ever.

I also know someone who was refused a refund for a faulty dock, half a year after purchase. The staff were clueless and unhelpful, and they didn’t understand the products they were selling.

Avoid John Lewis if you can.


if you live in bury lancashire does any body know where the county courts are


The county courts are a joke in bury lancashire


For me, excellence in customer service and product quality are a priority over price. Poor customer service gets my blood boiling. Conversely, I am forthcoming in praising those who give outstanding service.

The latest example of first class service was yesterday evening, at the GP’s surgery and in the pharmacy that is downstairs.

Companies that have provided me with bad service are Currys and Pixmania, so much that I have resolved never to give them any more of my money.

And Avon Cosmetics is atrocious. You get standard replies from a call centre in India. The agents do not read emails properly and appear to lack the intelligence to deal with non standard queries and problems.


Virgin Media for messing me around and not fixing my internet connection, and changing how my emails could be accessed without changing their access page. I was right in thinking that they had changed something – it wasn’t me. I became complete disillusioned with them after about 20 years of marital bliss and chose not to upgrade with them and went to BT. You are given 90 days to keep your old account (but they may close it earlier).

BT who were completely and utterly exasperating to deal with initially. They insisted on wanting to use an email address despite the fact that the reason that I was moving to them was that because my email was no longer working with Virgin. I wanted the email set up when the engineer came but he said it wasn’t his job. I already asked the salesperson whether I had asked everything that I needed to and could I be sure that I would now get the service that I wanted. When I tried to access via the internet it didn’t work. Went cold turkey for six months to avoid the stress and eventually discovered that the email address had been set up with an incorrect surname spelling. (This shouldn’t have happened as the email they were communicating with had the surname concerned in it.)

I would like to get these two companies by the scruff of the neck and bang their heads together.
These are communication companies who have failed dismally to communicate properly. I suggest they learn to communicate company-wide before subjecting the general public to their dysfunctional services. Lessons in checking work and learning the alfa beta charlie alphabet should be compulsory too.


BT customer service is nothing more than a big fat Joke ? held four times in a queue for over 30 minutes then been told 4 times my telephone number will be changed within 48 hours?? its still the same as it was when I asked them to change it the first time.. idiots


I would like to add a few more manes to the list of organisations that do not give a damn about giving good customer service.

In no particular order, here is my list of nominations for a poor customer service award …

Royal Mail Hone Phone. Staff treat people like numbers rather than as individuals.

Kantar Worldpanel (a market research company) for having staff that do not seem able to communicate with each other in order to pass messages on, resulting in having to explain the same thing repeatedly.

Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council Housing Department, for having poorly trained staff and for pitting a lot of bureaucracy and unhelpfulness in the way of some people who want to pay money owed to them (amazing!)


Apologies for the ‘typos’; I think you know what I mean.

Gerard Phelan says:
27 July 2013

John Lewis Kingston struggled to find the order code they needed to sell me a TV / Blu-Ray player package advertised in their store (code not given on the offer card). In recognition of the time I spent waiting and without prompting the salesman gave me a voucher for a substantial snack in the restaurant. So my initial annoyance was smoothed away and I still feel good about the experience.

There is actually a business book / training course on exactly this subject: “A Complaint is a Gift”.