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How can we be of service? Let us count the ways. We actually mean service – unlike those who have promised it before and didn’t show up when it counted most. Consider these insider tips your key to consumer affairs.
An old woman wondering how her customer loyalty will pay off

Fifty years of loyalty — and nothing to show for it

Yvonne Arnall didn’t expect any special treatment. Like most of us, she simply expected to be treated with respect and have her issue resolved in a timely manner.

Instead, what the Melbourne grandmother got was an abject failure in customer service that dragged on for almost six months. A saga that involved her driving hundreds of kilometres on multiple occasions for appointments that never eventuated. And when her initial request was finally resolved — on the eighth appointment — it came with an added insult: a pool of urine.

“That was the straw that broke the camel’s back,” Yvonne says. “The technician turned up without a mask, which I didn’t object to. But then he sneezed in the house and didn’t cover his face. And then he asked to use the bathroom.”

When she checked after he left, Yvonne discovered a significant amount of urine on the seat and floor. “I had to wash the bathroom and floor, and disinfect everything,” she says.

Where’s the customer loyalty?

What made Yvonne even more upset about this litany of bad service was that she had been a loyal customer with the telco for decades and that loyalty seemed to count for nothing.


A frustrated loyal customer filling a complaint


“I’ve been with this company for more than 50 years,” Yvonne says. “When I give loyalty, I expect loyalty back. I pay my bills on time, I expect service.”

Instead, she had to make many three-hour round trips from the family getaway in regional Victoria. She was to meet technicians at her home in Melbourne — technicians who never arrived at the appointed time. “We’d be told they were coming at 3pm, so we’d arrive home at 245pm only to find they had been at 230pm,” she says.

This loyal customer was then made to feel like she was the one causing the problem when she’d try to make another appointment.

“I’d say ‘well, if you come next Tuesday I’ll be here’ and they’d say, ‘no, because you missed your appointment you’ll have to wait a minimum of a month for another one’,” she says.

Getting the run-around

Yvonne lodged a formal complaint with the company. She asked for compensation for both the seven no-shows and the inappropriate behaviour of the employee who did make it on time. But there was no recognition of her loyalty then, either.

"They just weren’t responding to me,” she says. “One girl I spoke to on the phone, she had my letter on the system. She told me she was reading it and she said her manager would get back to me that afternoon.

“Well, I waited a week and when I rang again, they had lost the letter, it wasn’t on the system anymore! So then I had to get it back on the system to open the complaint again.”

She was also told that they would have to find a new case manager. And that would also take at least a few more weeks.

By the time Yvonne contacted Handle My Complaint to see if they could help her get a satisfactory response, she was at the end of her tether.

So where did this company get it so wrong? From the very start, according to Jo Ucukalo, founder of Handle My Complaint.

“Customers expect their issues to be resolved quickly and efficiently — the longer an issue drags on the more damage it does,” she says.

Quick response will save companies money

A LivePerson survey found that eight of 10 people put having their issue resolved quickly as the number one factor to a great customer experience.

“Most complaints can be resolved before they get out of control if they are handled correctly at the start,” Jo says. “People just want to be heard. If they are treated respectfully, even if they are dissatisfied to begin with, they can actually end up feeling better for the experience.”


Jo handling a customer loyalty complaint


Jo argues it is counter-intuitive to good business to handle customer complaints so poorly. “Energy is our most valuable resource. Wasting customer energy is wasting company energy.”

These same customers are also sharing their dissatisfaction with everyone they know.

While Yvonne has her reasons for staying with the telco, she says many of her family and friends have switched to competitors on the back of her experience.

“I like to be loyal, but it really didn’t pay off here,” she says. “I just expected to be treated better than that. Does loyalty mean nothing anymore?”

Jo says this lack of service is extremely damaging to a company’s reputation. This is particularly true in a competitive market when it is now much easier to switch providers.

“They really can’t afford to be losing customers through such a cavalier approach to complaints,” she says.

Handle My Complaint not only helps customers like Yvonne get a satisfactory resolution, but we educate companies about the best way to deal with complaints.

"It's like taking medication for a minor headache before it becomes a full-blown migraine — you need to react quickly and efficiently to avoid long-term pain.”