Customer service is a bit like good weather – you don’t realise how much you need it until it’s not there anymore. Over the past year, it’s been vividly illustrated how important it is to be able to contact a human being at an organisation when things go wrong.
Many organisations were overwhelmed during the first few months of lockdown and so reduced – or withdrew – customer service teams while they regrouped. But worryingly, a considerable number continue to make it hard to contact them – with some having replaced helplines with chatbots and online forms that shut down complaints and severely limit your ways of speaking to an organisation directly.
Resolver dealt with just under half a million complaints over the course of lockdown. Looking into the data in more detail, we saw more than 260,000 of those specifically mention not being able to call, contact or email the business – and in total two thirds of the total mention a customer service issue.
How do I get an organisation to listen to me?
Sadly, it’s often a challenge – but there are a few tactics you can try.
Think strategically. If there’s a phone number, then the time you spend on hold is likely to be much, much longer due to the volume of people trying to get help and the reduced number of staff available. Go for off-peak hours, with mid-afternoon being one of the better times with standard opening hours and during the evening prime time TV slots for 24-hour helplines.
Confuse a chatbot. For all the industry excitement surrounding chatbots, most are pretty low tech and are programmed to follow certain questions and patterns. Many people give up when faced with this option but keep questioning – some bots default to actual customer service teams if you persist or respond randomly.
Use social media. As consumers we really shouldn’t be forced to use social media, but it is a good way to get a business to notice you as it’s usually human beings monitoring the tweets and posts.
Find a forum. Remember them? Back in the early days of the internet, forums were the places to be for getting information on companies that were reluctant to communicate. There are loads still out there. Type a question into a search drive if you’re struggling to contact a firm and see if any forums pop up. The MoneySavingExpert forum has hundreds of thousands of users, for example.
Complain using Resolver. Even if a firm is refusing to provide a contact to you, you can usually complain using Resolver for free. However, where the firm won’t play ball at all, the website will warn you up front.
Make like you’re cancelling. If you have any kind of agreement or contract with a company and it isn’t responding, see if you can start the process of cancelling it. That often prompts a person from a different team to contact you to talk you out of it.
Increasingly, pre-empting problems is the best way to avoid them. So before you buy or sign up to anything, go online and check out the ‘contact us’ section of a website. If you can’t call or email, then consider going to a competitor – after all, if a company doesn’t want to talk to you, why give it your cash?
Resolver has helped sort out complaints for more than four million people – and we want to know about the businesses that are making it hard to complain too. Find out more here: www.resolver.co.uk