Why some businesses are hard to contact – and what to do about it

5 min read
October 20, 2022
Business contact

An announcement from the Institute of Customer Service has confirmed that customer service complaints have hit their highest level since 2008, something that hundreds of thousands of Resolver users have been saying for some time.

Worryingly, the same organisation is calling for protection for people working in customer service after an increase in aggressive and threatening behaviour by members of the public.

So how did we get to this point? It’s clear that many of the businesses Resolver deals with are keen to improve their customer service and are investing considerable sums in doing so. But many more seem to be discounting the concerns and complaints of their customers and are making it harder to contact them directly.

In this article, we take a look at what’s gone wrong – and how you can make your voice heard if you are struggling to get a problem sorted out.

A period of significant change

There’s little doubt that the pandemic had a huge impact on customer service. In terms of practicalities, switching from offices to call centres operated through the home was a challenge for many businesses. But it’s worth noting that call centre technology is pretty well established and adaptable, so we anticipated 3 to 6 months of service issues before things began to return to normal.

Sadly, Resolver’s data suggests that things seemed to get worse in many sectors. This was predictable in some senses given the mass demands for refunds for services that couldn’t take place. Yet many retailers also seemed to be overwhelmed by people calling to complain when things went wrong, which was a surprise.

Of more concern was the number of businesses who told us they were shutting down some forms of direct communication, like emails or even telephone lines. Others became more reliant on chatbots and ‘live talk’ or online forms as a channel for complaining. Our research consistently shows that our 4 million registered users do not like these options and want to speak to – or communicate directly with – a human being when it comes to sorting out a problem.

Automation, live chats and Q&As can serve a purpose, like answering simple questions and queries. This can sometimes be positive too as in theory they should cut down the number of people calling the business for help to a more manageable number. However, where firms are over-reliant on automation or make it difficult to get in touch, the reverse can be true.

So how much of a problem is this?

Resolver dealt with over 550,000 complaints last year. About a tenth of those are explicitly about customer service – but look into the data in more detail and half of those complaints specifically mention not being able to call, contact or email the business. That’s pretty shocking.

How do I get a business to help me?

The most common question Resolver gets asked at the moment is ‘how do I get a business to listen to me?’ Sadly, it’s often a challenge.

It goes without saying that you can use Resolver to reach out to the vast majority of businesses and organisations – and if they aren’t playing ball, we’ll tell you all we know about how to contact them and you can still use Resolver to construct your complaint. By registering a complaint with Resolver regardless, we are able to establish where the business is making errors and what it needs to do to improve. We can also speak to regulators and lawmakers about what businesses are getting wrong.

If you’re still struggling to get in touch, here are our tips on contacting a business.

1) 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.

2) Confuse a chatbot

For all the industry excitement surrounding chatbots, they’re pretty low-tech. Most are programmed to follow certain questions and patterns. Many people give up when faced with the bots, but keep questioning – some bots default to actual customer service teams if you persist or respond randomly.

3) Social media

We really shouldn’t be forced to use social media, but it is a good way to get a business to notice you, as the teams monitoring the tweets and posts are usually actual people. If you sign up to Twitter, it’s the most effective way to get attention (but don’t engage with the shouty people on the site).

4) Find a forum

Remember forums? Back in the early days of the internet, forums were the places to be for getting information on businesses 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 one.

5) 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 upfront.

6) Make it seem like you’re cancelling

If you have any kind of ongoing contract with a business and they aren’t responding, see if you can start the process of cancelling it. It’s easier to contact a sales team or ‘home movers’ team too.

Increasingly, pre-empting problems is the best way to avoid them. So before you buy or sign up for anything, go online and check out the ‘contact us’ section of the firm’s website. If you can’t call or email, consider going to a competitor – after all, if they don’t want to talk to you, why give them your cash?

Resolver can help you sort out complaints, tackle problems and save cash too. www.resolver.co.uk



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