Why complaining really does take all day

By Kevin Peachey
Personal finance reporter

Image source, Getty Images

Consumers typically spend 24 hours each year calling or writing to complain, while at work, about poor customer service, research suggests.

Problems with repairs in the home, delivery errors and frustrations about buying a property are the most common complaints, according to the Institute of Customer Service.

The issues lead to billions of pounds in lost productivity in the UK economy.

The institute said companies should use technology wisely to solve problems.

Previous research has suggested that younger consumers are most willing to complain about poor service, through various channels.

Now the institute's latest research suggests that people typically spend two hours in working time complaining to customer services - either on the phone, emailing, or through social media.

The most common gripes also include transport, banking and tax problems, as well as faulty goods, insurance, mobile phones and utility bills.

Jo Causon, the institute's chief executive, said many consumers had every right to be impatient, but they should remain polite and clear when calling to complain after something goes wrong.

Companies should deal with problems promptly and get the balance right between technology solving the issues and human interaction with customers.

The research suggested that time wasted by customers making complaints, and the cost to businesses and their suppliers in dealing with them, cost the UK economy £190bn a year in lost productivity.

"We hear a lot about productivity in a manufacturing sense, but in the service sector it is also a hard-nosed economic reality," she said.

Tips for getting a complaint dealt with

  • Act quickly. You have 30 days from purchase to claim a refund, after this time you may be offered a repair or replacement
  • In the first instance write to the customer services department politely and objectively, so that you have a written record as evidence. Then escalate to the chief executive if you are not happy with the response
  • Quote the relevant laws and be clear what the complaint is about
  • Say what you want to happen - refund, explanation, or apology
  • Say what you will do if not satisfied with the response, such as going to the relevant ombudsman or small claims court

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