When it comes to awful customer service, sadly there is keen competition but BT is the overall winner of the Money Mail Wooden Spoon Award 2008.
After counting your votes, the Daily Mail sent a Wooden Spoon and commemorative certificate to BT chief executive Ian Livingston. BT delivered the worst customer service in the UK over the past 12 months.
In all, Money Mail received more than 3,200 votes and, although we had a final shortlist of eight firms, we received nominations for 118 companies in total.
Your message is clear: you are sick of having to negotiate electronic switchboards, being put on hold, dealing with overseas call centres and being generally messed around by shoddy and surly customer service.
Two companies, in particular, are driving you mad – communications giant BT and Spanish-owned bank Abbey. Together, they received almost half of all votes cast. In third place was broadband, TV and phone company Virgin Media. It received just a handful more votes than Britain’s biggest building society, Nationwide.
Daily Mail asked the chief executives of the worst three firms to answer some of the most common complaints you raised, and comment on why they received such a large number of votes.
But those firms that were on the shortlist yet are not featured below should not rest easy. Just because you are not the worst in Britain does not mean that your customers are not tired of your appalling customer service.
What you said:
There were two areas you felt most aggrieved about. The first was dealing with overseas call centres. You complained that you are forced to spend a substantial amount of time pressing buttons in the automated system before you can reach a human being.
You were frequently unsure of which option to choose, and when you did finally manage to speak to an operator were often passed on to another department.
You also complained that there was a language barrier with call centre staff – with operators and the customer unable to understand each other. Often the line was bad – and it frequently sounded distant or hollow.
The second point raised by a large proportion of voters was about charges for customers who do not pay by direct debit. Many of you were loyal, long-standing customers who had paid on time, by cash or cheque, for years. You believe you are being penalised, even though you have never missed a payment.
You also say you dislike the attitude of BT’s customer service staff when you have raised the issue with them. You say you feel like you are being treated like bad customers who never pay their bill.
You say you cannot understand why there is such a substantial extra cost, when there is a penalty for late payment of bills anyway.
How BT replied:
Chief executive Ian Livingston passed on the chance to respond to BT’s managing director of the consumer division, John Petter. He said: ‘We are surprised and disappointed to have won this award when our service levels are at their best for years, and independent research shows BT is number one for customer service in the communications sector, with more than twice as many votes as the next closest competitor, Sky.
‘We offer more ways to pay than any of our competitors, including cash and cheques. Unlike some of our rivals, we don’t turn away customers who want to pay in cash.
‘The majority of our call centres are UK-based, so the feedback of Daily Mail readers is surprising. We will investigate this area to see where we can make some improvements.
‘We wish Mail readers a good 2009.’