Always complain

By Andrew on 5th November 2017 — 2 mins read

I’ve had a terrible time with EE customer services recently. Too boring to share the details, but it involved lots of calls to various call centres – and not one person helped me, until I made an official complaint. At this point someone started calling us back – and finally I spoke to someone who was willing to take ownership of my problem. Someone was there at last to do whatever it took to sort things out.

This person gave me their email address (in fact they texted it to me while I was on the phone – so I didn’t even have to write it down, or worry about getting it wrong). There it was – a promise to be there for me through this dark moment in their service. He told me that he worked full time – and that I could contact him anytime during the working day and expect a quick response.


Such a shift in how ‘they’ have been treating me.

After we ended the call, I reflected on the sorts of things that this man is measured on. Resolving complex problems. Making unhappy customers feel better.

I contrasted this with other sorts of measurements that the other call centre folk probably have to meet. Call handling time. Time on hold. These people aren’t incentivised to deal with unusual problems. They need to get through large numbers of people and sort things quickly.

They don’t have the luxury, or the training to treat some calls as special cases. They need to refer customers on to another team for that. This is why they drop the ball when complexity happens – and why this is a key challenge to look out for in service design.

While things remain broken, the best approach for customers is to remember that you can ask for an official compliant to be raised. This gets you shifted to the other folk with more time to actually help.

An official complaint will theoretically help other customers too, as these things get monitored and measured in different ways.

Perhaps if enough people complain, the service will get fixed to allow first-line staff to shift gears as appropriate. The company would at least get a more realistic measure of the experience they’re providing.

Of course the service should know when to shift gears. When to know that the customer is complaining, without them demanding it be treated as such. But what company is brave enough to trigger this shift, and therefore to count and handle more complaints, in order to play the longer game of delivering a much better experience?

Posted in: Design thinking

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