silver service for penguins John Stillwell/PA Wire

Being British means we're resigned to certain things: we are destined to join queues, talk about the weather, and stoically put up with the worst possible customer service.

But while there's no reason to challenge many of the great pillars of British society (who doesn't enjoy complaining about the rain?) there's no reason to put up with bad service. So how can you deal with poor service in a way that gets results?


There are five clear steps to take if you are having problems with a company.

1. Be polite and firm

If service is falling short, you don't need to beat about the bush, and you don't need to be rude, you just need to be clear.

Call the company, explain what the problem is, and what you would like to see happen in order to put things right. Listen carefully to what they say, and give them every opportunity to help you.

2. Start again.

If things are going wrong: you feel a complaint is falling on deaf ears, or a member of staff is blindly refusing to help, start again from scratch. Say something like. "Now I understand your policy, let's see if we can sort something out."

If you think the staff member is being deliberately unhelpful, thank them for their time, and contact an alternative customer services staff member.

3. Escalate the complaint

This can mean asking to speak to their manager, although make sure you do it in a way that doesn't betray your frustration with them, or it could ensure the call is handed over in a negative way.

Alternatively you can consider turning to complaints on social media, which are more likely to get a swift response from someone more senior.

If you can find the details, an email to a company director in charge of customer service is an excellent way to fast-track your complaint.

4. Make it formal

If a call doesn't do it, ask the staff member for details of their formal complaints procedure. This may mean writing a letter and waiting for a response. However, if the problem is a personality clash, or that the individual you are speaking to simply doesn't have the power to help, you can get far further much more effectively by taking the formal route.

5. Go to a third party

If that still doesn't work, you can take it to a third party. If there's an ombudsman overseeing the industry, if a formal complaint doesn't go anywhere you can take it to the ombudsman who will make a ruling.

If not you can consider a mediation service, or the small claims court, where for a fee you can have a professional oversee the disagreement and find a resolution.