How Do You Complain About A Service When You Have No Other Options?

Author: Siobhan Kelly


What do you do when you are getting terrible service from an organisation? If it’s a retailer or bank then you can always switch to a rival. It’s true that most people put up with a lot at their bank before moving, but the option is still there. If a company delivers really bad service, or the experience you have when you use their service is awful, then you just switch to a rival.


Our own research data at Egeria Insights also shows that most customers don’t even bother telling the company that they have lost a customer - they just move on.


But what happens if you are dealing with a monopoly? It happens more often than you think. What about government services like the Inland Revenue? Or your housing association? Or your water supplier? Or your train company? Or Transport for London for those living in the capital. It’s easy to think of many organisations that can deliver poor service and leave you with no choice other than to tolerate it because they have a monopoly on that service.


In this situation most consumers feel that they have very little choice - there is no point complaining when they cannot select an alternative service provider - but there are actually several options for these customers.


1.Shout about it; just because they are monopolies does not mean that they don’t care. Your problem may just have been an error or oversight. Most consumers walk away and never complain when they have a problem - don’t do that. Send them a message to ensure that they know about your issue and you create the possibility that they can resolve it. You can do this privately, or using a social media channel so everyone can see the details of your complaint.


2.Talk to a mediator; organisations like our own Resolver Group have the expertise to really go after companies that are letting people down. Resolver has helped millions of consumers to resolve a complaint and it’s a free service - just go to the website and register the details of your complaint and let a mediator help with your problem.


3.Tell the regulator; if your bank has let you down and they are not responding to your complaints then tell the Financial Conduct Authority. If your energy company is not helping you fix a problem then tell Ofgem. All regulated industries will have a regulator and even most unregulated industries will have a trade body or ombudsmen there to help unhappy customers.


It can seem hopeless when you have no choice or option to take your business elsewhere, but consumers do have a voice. My colleague James Hearn recently wrote an article about how many regulators are now cracking down on companies that abuse their most vulnerable customers - the energy companies that don’t help customers find a better tariff or the banks happy to charge a fortune for small overdrafts. This is a very interesting shift in the power dynamic and means that regulators are starting to flex their muscles - they really want to help consumers, in particular those who feel the most powerless to complain. You do have a voice.