Monday, 7 February 2011

In defence of the strongly worded letter

It’s not terribly British to complain is it? We’d rather mutter under our breath and tut loudly rather than suffer the embarrassment of expressing our displeasure. But we should only be prepared to part with our hard-earned cash if we get treated properly, and if we don't, should spend our money elsewhere.

I must confess I am a bit of a serial strongly-worded-letter-writer. I’m not proud of being ‘disgruntled in Edinburgh’, but I firmly believe that if we want to start getting the service we deserve, then complain we must.

I recently complained to my bank after receiving startlingly shocking service in my local branch. They had an online system set up ready to receive my complaint. I explained the nature of my concern, relating to the rude and unhelpful member of staff I encountered, and could not resist ending with the slightly snide snipe of, ‘I am not sure where the happy, helpful, smiling staff of your TV advert work; but it is certainly not in Edinburgh.’

Within the hour I received an email from said bank. Very swift, I thought.

‘Thank you for your e-mail.  I am sorry you were unhappy with the service you recently received, but grateful you have taken the time to explain why.  So that you know how we deal with complaints, I have attached our explanatory leaflet, ‘Making things better.’ Our understanding of your complaint is outlined below. Please let me know if you think I have misunderstood, or missed out any of your concerns.

Your complaint:  You’d like to know which branch the customer service advisers from our TV advert work at.’

Making things better they were not.

I should have known. This was the same bank that misplaced my £1000 cheque, insisted that I had ‘dropped it in the street’ rather than paid it into my account, and when they finally located it in someone else’s bank account, asked me to nominate the customer service advisor that had handled my case for an award.

Whilst they may not have great customer service, at least they have a sense of humour.

In the era of cheap-deals, low cost and disposable goods, is it any wonder we’re not getting the service we expect?

Even John Lewis, the beacon of high-street quality and unfaltering customer service, who for 85 years has proudly promised to ‘refund the difference,’ has had a subtle policy change that now means many customers who ask for the price match promise will be turned away.

Even in the face of this damning evidence, we will not be disheartened, and will proudly and unapologetically venture forth, firmly believing in our rights as consumers and the power of the pen.

That is as long as our complaint isn’t with trainline.

Trainline have an online complaints system, not dissimilar to Facebook chat. This is no doubt so their ‘agents’ can complete other policy related tasks whilst anonymously fobbing you, the customer, off.

A friend, with a justified and reasonable complaint, signs in to said complaints system.

He is greeted by an ‘agent’, whose name is synonymous with understanding, consideration and utterly reasoned behaviour.

“Good afternoon”, it reads, “My name is Adolf, how may I help you?”

Computer, unsurprisingly, said no.


  1. Rach, I had a brainwave...

    I know you are trying to *save* money, but if you want to earn more, why not hire out your services as a strongly-worded-letter-writer? You do get results after all :) Zahra X

  2. I like this idea. Perhaps I will set up a consultancy!