A little departure today from the usual topics of either books or Scotland.
Today, I am going to have a rant about the deplorable state of customer services – and I know it isn’t just in this country, because my friend Debby in Canada (yes, really – another Debby who spells her name this way) is the one who has inspired this post with her recent pant rant.
I have more than one, so I’ll condense them. This has been a tricky year for me, involving more contact with a variety of services than I would normally choose, and I’ve been shocked and disgusted at the way the bigger companies treat customers – on the plus side, in most cases I’ve managed to get a positive outcome, but only after complaining.
Experian, the credit broker.
I had to get a mortgage this year – not so easy when you are nearly 60, and self-employed. When I eventually found a company (more on that one in a minute) that would lend me what I needed, it came with a hundred and ten hoops I had to jump through, the biggest being to clear every last bit of credit I had. Bank loan, credit cards, car lease, even the horse insurance, as it was on monthly payments. And then, I had to wait for Experian to show it all as clear. This can take up to 6 weeks to show on their website!!! Even when I had the paperwork to prove I’d paid things off, the mortgage company (Santander) cannot over-ride their computer systems, which are tied into Experian. So until Experian updates, nothing can move forward. I spoke with Experian on the phone when it showed my bank loan as still active at 7 weeks after I’d cleared it. Was there anything they could do? NO. That was down to my bank. Would my bank do anything? NO. It’s all automated.
I find it rather alarming that people no longer have any discretion, it’s all controlled by computer programmes they cannot over-ride.
I’d been warned beforehand they could be tricky, but I had no option, as they were the only company willing to lend me enough money. Cutting a very long story (some of which is in Case 1) short, the final straw came when I had to prove I really do live in the house in Scotland, by the process of them sending a physical letter to the house, which I had to sign and return. As I was in Sussex at the time, caring for my dying mother, this wasn’t easy, and involved having said letter posted down to me. Returning it was simple – sign, scan in, and email back.
I ask you, in this day and age (forgive the cliché) – a physical letter is supposed to prove residency???
Horsham and District Council.
When mum died, I telephoned the HDC council tax helpline to inform them that the house would henceforth be empty as a result of her death. The man on the other end haughtily informed me that “HDC do not make any exceptions – you are liable to pay the regular council tax.”
Huh? At this point I don’t even own the house, and mum’s bank accounts are frozen, so precisely why and how am I supposed to pay this? I tired again, explaining that the house owner was deceased, but got the same pedantic answer. I asked to speak to someone else. He refused me.
I lost my temper and slammed the phone down, went onto the government website to the page about council tax and deceased persons. I input the address, and got sent to the HDC page to fill out forms for a deceased person, to get the house rated at zero council tax.
But if I’d been less stubborn, I’d have taken that arrogant b***** at his word, and found myself paying nearly £300 a month in council tax.
Just to rub it in, HDC sent a link to a satisfaction questionnaire. You bet I complained loudly about their phone rep. I just hope they did something about him.
Unfortunately not a win, this one, but a salutary lesson in how a big company can totally ignore its customers and get away with it.
I fly so regularly with EasyJet, I am a member of their ‘Flight Club’, which gives me a few privileges, but clearly no clout. I arrived early (unusual for me) for a flight to Glasgow for work, so I went upstairs and had a coffee. When I checked my phone app, I found they’d assigned a gate, so I set off. When I got down to ground level, I noticed the info board said Gate closing at 1615 – the flight was 1630. It was now 1600, so I walked at a steady pace, not hurrying, and got to the gate at 1610.
To find they’d already closed it.
The gate staff radioed the dispatcher, but despite it still being 5 minutes before the gate was due to shut, he refused to take me.
In the mean time, another passenger arrived, and then 3 more. So now there were 5 of us, all asking to be let onto the plane, which was still sitting there attached to the airbridge. No, was the only answer we got, and the plane left without us.
We got a supervisor down, and she looked horrified when the dispatcher agreed he’d shut the gate well before the advertised time, but there was nothing she could do. We were taken back to the customer services desk, where they accepted it was their fault, booked us onto the first flight the next morning, and then paid for us all to be taken back to our various residences by taxi. Not cheap for them!
When I eventually tracked down a way to contact EasyJet (not simple, or obvious, believe me) I put in a claim for lost income, which EasyJet refused on the grounds of it ‘not being a procedural issue’.
If their dispatcher closing the gate well ahead of advertised time, and then refusing to let us board isn’t a ‘procedural issue’, I don’t know what it is.
I contacted them again, saying I would settle for an apology, but all I got this time was silence.
Hermes parcel delivery.
I’ve been selling much of the contents of the house on eBay, sending it mostly via Hermes. One lady bought 3 items: a collection of large ceramic cats, which I packed carefully in separate, large boxes. The smaller two arrived, the biggest one didn’t.
Naturally, the lady opened an ‘undelivered item case’, and I proceeded to try to locate the parcel, using the Hermes tracking code. It said ‘Out for Delivery’.
Next, I telephoned them (another case of a tricky to find phone number – they really don’t want to encourage you to call them). I was told they would try to find out, and get back to me in 24 hours.
Nope. 2 days later, I phoned again. It seems they had lost the parcel – the main sorting depot is largely automated, you know, very few actual people there. That also means lots of heavy equipment, and parcels can get damaged (alarm bells ringing now, thinking about the fact I carefully put ‘FRAGILE’ tape on my parcels, but I’m guessing the machines don’t read). I’m also told that if they find the parcel and the contents are damaged, I won’t be recompensed, because they don’t cover ceramic items, and I stupidly (won’t be doing this again – lesson learned) put ‘Ceramic cat’ as the contents.
What did I pay extra insurance for????
If, on the other hand, she told me, the parcel is simply lost, I would be refunded. A case is opened, the email says it will be sorted in 14 days.
At day 19, I email again, demanding an answer.
Next morning, I get an email reply: ‘Because your item was ceramic, and we don’t cover such contents, we won’t be paying you.’
I send back a stinky reply, informing them that they WILL refund me, because the contents are irrelevant – they lost the entire parcel.
Next morning, I get notification of a full refund.
But only because I’m stubborn. If I’d accepted their first email, they’d have got away with it.
NOT impressed with modern customer ‘service’, and the bigger the company, the worse they treat you.
Never accept a negative answer. You won’t win every time, but you surely won’t if you don’t complain.
How about you? Tell me your horror stories, then we can all learn which companies to avoid.