Make it easy for your customers to complain


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Following my post on December 5th (When it comes to customer service, I’m a name not a number), I searched for a way of making Southern Water aware of my post and the issues that I faced.

I went to their website and contact page and to my surprise it was not immediately obvious how I could lodge a complaint. Yes, I could have called them but I didn’t want to speak to anyone given that I had just written done my experience. I did see a ‘How we handled your account’ email form but no explicit complaint form.

I then looked for some social media channels and could not see any Twitter link. However, by scrolling down to the bottom of the page (right down to the bottom in the footer of the site) I did find a Facebook page that they maintain.

As a result, I sent them a message via Facebook on Dec 5th.

Now, I must admit I wasn’t sure what response, if any, I would receive.

However, on Dec 21st I received the following email from Joel in Southern Water’s Public Relations team:

Dear Mr Swinscoe,

I hope you are well.

Many apologies for not coming back to you sooner on the issue you raised. We have been looking into the detail of what occurred, which has taken longer than first anticipated.

First of all, I would like to thank you, once again, for highlighting the experience you had when calling our Contact Centre recently.

You are completely right to state in your blog that when it comes to customer service, you are a name, not a number.

From the detail you have included in your blog, together with our own records, it is clear that you provided more than enough information to the agent you initially spoke to for them to have been able to have found and accessed your record.

It is not clear why they were not able to find your account record, and we would like to apologise for that. Our agents should be able to call up a customer record simply by searching our database using a name, address, or postcode.

We have issued a reminder to all our agents about the full range of information, which includes the various types of reference numbers we include on our customer letters, which they can use to search our database to find customer account records.

We are also refining the search function on our database to make it more flexible.

We have already embarked on a new training programme for our staff, which is aimed at improving the service we provide to customers when they contact us, or when we contact them, with a particular emphasis around fulfilling the promises / commitments we make to them.

Do let me now if you need further information, or have any other queries.

With best regards and wishes for a Merry Xmas and happy 2013,


What do you think of the letter?

Personally, there were a few things that occurred to me when I received this email:

  1. I was surprised and pleased at the response and it’s diligence;
  2. I wondered why it had taken 12 working days to get back to me;
  3. With my cynical hat, I wondered if this was their normal way of working and if my original post, it’s public nature and the response and comments it got had anything to do with their response.

However, I think there is some big lessons here that apply to all businesses.

Assuming that a business cares about their customers and what they think, isn’t a customer complaint better than a lost customer? And, isn’t a customer that is talking to you, even if they are complaining, better than one that is not talking to you at all?

Make it easy, really easy for your customers to complain. If they do, at least you know that they are still talking to you. Also, if you listen, respond and take action you might just learn something new or figure out how to improve the service you deliver to them.

[Note: Losing customers does not apply to Southern Water being the appointed supplier in this geographic area.]

Imagine the results you could achieve if you and I were working together to grow your business. Click here to find out more or here to arrange a time to have a chat.

Thanks to spackletoe for the image.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Adrian Swinscoe
Adrian Swinscoe brings over 25 years experience to focusing on helping companies large and small develop and implement customer focused, sustainable growth strategies.


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