Am I alone in this?

Hannah Ricci's picture

We received a letter from a Moneywise reader this week, sharing their experiences of bad customer service from Northern Rock, when trying to open a savings account.

It made me think that I honestly cannot remember when I was last at the receiving end of good customer service. In an age where we shop around endlessly for the best deals for everything from our mortgage and insurance, to energy and mobile phone tariffs – the savings we make can feel meaningless if customer service is poor.

I’m not suggesting everyone who works in customer services is unhelpful, moody or downright difficult, it just seems to be the ones that I’ve come across in the last year or so. And of course, that’s only if I actually get to speak to someone and don’t have to deal with an irritating automated voice telling me to press buttons that seem to send me in endless circles of frustration.

I won’t name all the companies that have annoyed me, but there’s a mobile phone provider, energy company, train line and building society amongst them. It’s enough to make me wonder if it’s me who’s got the problem, but I’m sure I’m not alone.

It’s interesting that they suddenly become helpful when I request to cancel, close or switch…

Your Comments

Hi Hannah,

We have. A-quote insures our cars. We've rung them up with a few questions, never have to wait to get through, the person who speaks to us is always able to answer. This may be a fantasy but I actually believe the people who man their phones are insurance agents and not call centre patsies!

Hiscox (admittedly expensive) are exceptional when settling claims for home insurance. I've had a (good) bike nicked and drove off with an expensive camera on the roof of my car. Both times they accepted my claim by phone, including quite a few accessories and modifications that went with the bike. The money was in my bank account later the same day.

It's funny really because generally I think insurance is one of the biggest rip-offs and people are encouraged to over-insure. But once you've decided you need insurance the last thing you want is to find in your moment of difficulty you've got difficult staff on the other end of the 'phone or some ridiculous small print that means you won't get paid.

Bloke who sits next to me at work is having a horrible time with BT though.

The worst customer service I ever experienced was from Dell - I ordered a laptop online which for some reason was never properly processed. When I phoned up, they re-ordered it for me - twice!

I then spent nearly a month consulting with Dell on how to sort out the mess (it didn't seem that hard to me but it really puzzled them). When the second order was finally cancelled, they kept changing the delivery date. After three different dates being set and then cancelled (by Dell) a date was set in stone - only they had an incorrect postal address and apparently this couldn't be changed. Long and short of it was, I never received my laptop, and spent a small fortune in phone calls trying to a) order it in the first place and b) get my money back. It was a relief to eventually just go into a shop and buy one!

The thing that stressed me out most about dealing with Dell was the fact that I could never speak to the same person more than once. When I asked for people by name I was told they weren't on shift, and when I demanded to speak to the manager of the call centre I was always put through to different people.

It really was one of the most stressful experiences of my life (more than buying a house, getting a new job, taking my driving exam). As far as I am concerned, customer service is so important and in many instances I would rather pay more to deal with a company that treats me like a valid customer rather than a pain in the neck.

You're experience with Dell sounds like a nightmare!

And yes, as you say, I always feel like a pain and dread phoning up to sort out a problem, which is usually due an error on their part. I wouldn't mind, but surely that's the idea of customer services.

In the interests of sharing experiences, I've decided I will name my offenders - O2, British Gas, Virgin and Alliance & Leicester.

I'm glad you've received some good customer service though Richard. It's nice to hear about positive experiences and helpful staff.

Anyone else with good/bad experiences to share?

The worse customer service I have experienced so far has been from Three.

I tried to buy a phone via their website which crashed during the transaction. I then telephoned them up and they told me the transaction had definitely not gone through so I had to do it again over the phone. I did it over the phone and a few months later noticed they were taking 2 lots of direct debits out of my bank account for one handset.

I telephoned them up about this and was sent around 4 different people in their Scottish and Indian Call Centres 3 times. They also called me twice and when I picked up the phone immediately hung up on me claiming I was not available when in fact I had two colleagues next to me who could see how quickly I picked up my phone in front of me as not to disturb the entire office.

So I wrote a letter of complaint this got me know where so I wrote another letter and sent it by recorded delivery.
I was eventually called by a manager at one of the Three Call Centres. She tried to get me to take another handset from them I refused to do this, read out to her what contract terms Three where in breach off and asked for a refund. She refused to offer a refund saying it was not her fault so I told her that due to their breach of contract I was going to use the Direct Debit Guarantee. Her response was to threaten me with Debt Collectors.

I subsequently contacted OFCOM and a Call Centre Manager fell over himself trying to help me. I did receive the Debt Collection Letter demanding payment of my account but this was swifely followed by a letter of apology.

Twelve months later I have discovered during their credit searches they have linked me to an address I have not lived at and have been difficult in removing this information from my file. (Infact this information is still on my file for one of their searches.)

Today, two months down the line from this they are trying to retain me as a customer!

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