The Guardian ‘worst customer service awards’ 2016

The Guardian has published their awards for the worst customer service examples in 2016. As you might expect, it’s a sorry list indeed, populated with inexplicably poor treatment of customers from some of the biggest brands in the UK.

However, as I cast my eye over the list I noticed that there are some common threads in all the customer service failures that The Guardian documents:

  • They are all financial mistakes; it looks like this investigation into customer service is skewed by a desire to only look into financial errors and blunders. This is understandable as it’s the Guardian’s Money section carrying the news, but then it’s a little deceiving to headline the list as the worst customer service awards for 2016. Perhaps the worst financial errors by companies might be closer to the truth.
  • All the examples cited in the Guardian appear to be blunders rather than a concerted effort to deliver poor service. I have sympathy for anyone who faces a financial penalty unfairly and then finds it difficult to complain, but I struggle to believe that the brands mentioned here are systematically trying to fleece their customers.
  • eBay is singled out for helping customers; The Guardian criticises the protection buyers when buying on the auction site, suggesting that rogue buyers are using it to buy products, use them, then return them later saying there is a problem. Like free bicycle rental for example, if you buy a bike, use it for a week, then tell eBay there is a fault. The buyer is strongly protected on eBay and money is refunded at the cost of the seller almost instantly when complaints are made.

All this takes the fun out of reading the awards. It’s always funny to read lists of customer service disasters because all of us involved in the industry can hope that whatever we are doing, it has to be better than those of a failure list. However, to criticise eBay for protecting their buyers or Thomas Cook for mistakenly processing an upgrade request that was not actually requested, seems churlish.

Mistakes happen and every brand will make mistakes at some point. The way you judge these companies is not by documenting that they made a mistake, it is by explaining how they handled the customer and how the problem was rectified.

What do you think of the Guardian worst customer service awards? I think I’m going to search for another ‘worst of 2016’ list myself, but please leave a comment here with your own thoughts or get in touch via my LinkedIn.

My Photo on Guardian Cover

Photo by Andy Wilson licensed under Creative Commons.

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