Are you being served?


I was interested to read recently that complaints about BT Sport to industry regulator Ofcom  are running at ten times the industry norm. Interestingly, the main concerns seem to around BT’s notoriously poor customer service and complaint handling procedures.

Many of the UK’s train operators, power companies and banks also have a poor reputation when it comes to customer service. For example, a few months ago I contacted Scotrail with a complaint. Their customer service team emailed me with what was obviously a template response that made no reference to the details of my problem and was clearly designed to get me to shut up and go away. My reaction was to give the story to a Glasgow newspaper a few days later. As a result Scotrail received negative press coverage which could have been easily avoided if they had only bothered to take my complaint seriously.

It seems to me that this is an area where the public sector could teach the private sector a few lessons. In my experience most local authorities have well trained customer service staff who try to be helpful to the public. According to the Local Government Association, Councils in England and Wales handle some 50 million calls per year from the public.

In addition, many of the Councils I have worked with make sure that there is plenty of contact between the customer service and communications teams. This allows each team to keep track of ongoing issues and identify areas of poor performance which need to be rectified. The CIPR website has a number of case studies of public sector organisations such as Glasgow Housing Association where communications has played a crucial role in delivering high quality customer service.

For the consumer, dealing with their local council or NHS body seems to be a lot easier that dealing with most private companies. The public sector recognises that the customer matters, too many private companies have yet to learn that lesson.


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