Consumer Champion – Five Common Customer Complaints

If you’ve got a complaint to make to a company, what’s it likely to be about? And what sort of response can you expect? We find out…

“Have you had an accident that wasn’t your fault? Where there’s blame, there’s a claim…”

“Are you owed thousands of pounds due to mis-sold PPI…?”

Lines like these scream at us from our TVs, radios and magazines. Take them at face value, and you’d be forgiven for thinking that money and compensation is all that the British consumer is after when they complain.

Yet my experience of issues raised via our online issue-resolution tool is far more complex than that. Sure, there are plenty of cases where people want – and may well deserve – some sort of monetary compensation, but they’ll almost certainly be after some form of apology, too. Then there are those of us who want an apology only, and still others who want to see action taken to sort out the problem they’ve encountered to ensure the same thing doesn’t happen again to themselves or to others.

Of course, the sorts of complaints an individual company will receive depend entirely on the sort of services or goods they offer. The appropriate responses will vary hugely, too.

In short, the world of complaints and how to respond to them is a tricky business for companies, and every complaint is different, but there are certain categories of complaints and general customer service issues that we see more regularly than others via Here are some of the most common, and how you can expect the best companies to respond:

The compensation claim
This sort of complaint tends to be linked to some sort of legislation and is likely to be part of a groundswell of other complaints in a similar vein. This could be because of a news campaign, a change in the law or a precedent-setting court case.

Whatever the cause, it’s likely the best companies will hold their hands up and pay up. This is generally because, whenever there’s a large-scale compensation opportunity, solicitors and specialist claims management companies will spring up and force an industry to pay… so for them taking the path of least resistance will generally be better in the long run.

The ongoing PPI saga is a classic example of this where banks, with public confidence in them at rock-bottom, were found to have consistently mis-sold payment protection insurance. Another example is flight-delay compensation, where recent court cases have caused a flood of claims against airlines

The replacement
This is one of two types of common complaints related to products – if you buy something (whether physically on the high street or online) that subsequently breaks, you are likely to be entitled to a replacement. This is one of the simplest complaints to resolve, and you should be entitled to expect a swift, efficient response from the best companies.

The service failure
Another very common issue – and potentially more complex to resolve – is some sort of failure on the part of a service provider paid for by a regular subscription or bill. This could be anything from a poorly installed broadband connection to a water leak to a problem with domestic gas supply.

The way to resolve an issue like this will often be specified in the small print of your terms of service, and can be defined by legislation, too. This makes resolution easier, as there is a clear path to take. Communication is key here – the best companies will always let you know where in the process you are and will manage your expectations accordingly.

The apology
Surprisingly often, a simple ‘we’re sorry’ is all that we really want to hear when we make a complaint. The issue here issue is about respect, and about a sense that your concerns are listened to.

The suggestion for improvement
This is similar to the apology but, crucially, you also want to feed back on how a service or product could be improved. Again, this ought to be easy for a responsible company to deal with – as long as you feel you are being listened and have some idea of how the customer service team will pass on your suggestions to the wider company.