The UK’s most common customer service complaints and how you can combat them

Which? has just released results from a survey revealing five of the most common customer service complaints in the UK. Here we find out how you can combat them.

The participants from the study showed that they have had to regularly:

1. Contact a company a number of times
2. Waited for a long time
3. Been passed from department to department
4. Staff had poor knowledge
5. Their complaint wasn't taken seriously

Everyone seems to have experienced these problems when trying to contact a company about a product or service they have purchased, which is frustrating and can lead to a customer leaving for a competitor.

We often find these issues are mentioned in the customer experience assessments we run for clients.

The above are easy to avoid, and quite often they only take a few straightforward changes to make the communication process simpler and stress-free.

Here are our top tips to combat these customer service faux pas:

1. If you say you can resolve an issue, then do so quickly

The customer has called your company for help/answers, so don't prolong the situation. If the case requires a call back then keep the promise – you cannot afford to let the customer down. Once the issue has been resolved one of our clients then follows up by giving the customer a call a week later, or sends them an email, to check they are satisfied and to see if they can do anything else to help.

2. One of our recent clients cut down the waiting time for customers by introducing direct phone lines, or a list of contacts

Sitting on an automated phone line for an hour is no one's idea of fun. Sometimes a direct phone contact isn't possible, but you should be able to make contact numbers more specific to save the qualifying questions. If you have various branches then let your customer know the name of the manager and the office opening times.

Another option is to allow customers to register for a call back. If a customer requests a call, let them know who will give them a ring and the approximate time so they know when you'll be in touch. If this is a quicker option, tell customers – "Request a call back and we'll be in touch within 24 hours", or "No need to wait around on the phone – let us give you a call."

3. Another client gives their customers a contact card – put a face to the name

Contact cards work as they put a face to the name. Let the customer know who can help them in various situations, and the ways to contact them to avoid being passed around departments. If the person at the end of the line isn't available, then give staff the knowledge to help the customer rather than pass them on.

Remember, it is far better to arrange a call back with a person who can help than pass the customer around hoping someone might know the answer.

4. Make sure staff know who to get help from

If your staff aren't sure about your full product set, or are unable to resolve an issue, then make sure they know who they can contact for help. Supply your staff with their own contact cards with senior members who can help them give customers an answer. This gives them the confidence to resolve an issue, knowing they can check company policy before promising something that is not achievable.

Our analysis shows that supporting employees in this way this is one of the strengths of our top performing clients.

5. All complaints should be acknowledged, no matter how small they may seem

If a customer is unsatisfied, always take a note of their complaint and try to resolve the issue. It could be something as simple as offering them a refund, adding it to a list of suggested product improvements or maybe an apology from the right person. Let the customer know what is going to happen with their complaint and that your company takes it seriously.

The most customer focused companies are those that review customer complaints at board level. Remember, customers who are unsatisfied don't just leave you – they leave you and tell all of their friends, and even their friends-friends-friends, through social media!

These small process changes, or spending some time putting together contact cards, make a big difference to the customer experience, as many of our clients have discovered. Ideally, training your staff to deal with various situations can stop customers from being passed around departments. It is also worth considering trust. Giving your staff more power to help the customer can save you time and money – after all, if that one person can give the refund or appropriate advice, you save the time of another member of your team and, most importantly, avoid a frustrated customer. Customer service can come down to common sense, and your staff could be too tied up in red tape to effectively help the customer.