If there’s ever been a year when customer service has really mattered, this is surely it.
With the cost of living squeeze putting huge pressure on our household finances, the last thing you need is to be let down by a company you’re relying on.
It’s absolutely vital you’re able to speak to someone who can sort out your query or complaint with minimal fuss — whether you’re trying to correct a bungled energy bill, get a new passport or report a scam to your bank.
Get YOUR vote in: Our annual Wooden Spoon Awards is the prize for dreadful service that no boss wants to win
Yet some organisations have routinely failed at this basic task over the past 12 months.
So, today, it’s time to get your own back — and help us hold the customer service laggards to account.
Once again, we are asking you to vote in Money Mail’s annual Wooden Spoon Awards — the prize for dreadful service that no boss wants to win.
Your opinion matters. In past years, the unfortunate winners of our Wooden Spoon have taken your complaints to heart and tried to make improvements.
Today, we reveal a shortlist of eight poor- performing organisations.
You can vote on The Mail+ at mailplus.co.uk/spoon (or on the app if you are a subscriber), at thisismoney.co.uk/spoon, by filling in the form on this page or filling in the form in the newspaper and posting it in to us. You have until Saturday, December 31 to vote.
If you provide a note explaining your decision — and give us permission to speak to the firm concerned — we will pass on your complaint for investigation. The winner will be announced in the new year, when we’ll hand the trophy to its chief executive.
In alphabetical order, then, here are the Wooden Spoon 2022 nominees . . .
Bonkers billing at British Gas
On hold: British Gas has also been slow to answer the phone to customers
It has been a very tough year for energy suppliers as soaring wholesale costs have caused bills to rocket.
Naturally, they have faced a deluge of calls from customers worried about surviving eye-watering price hikes.
Yet British Gas has been by far the most criticised energy firm in Money Mail’s postbag. Inaccurate billing is one of the most common gripes. Our consumer champion Sally Hamilton solved one case where a customer’s direct debit had been incorrectly hiked from £80 a month to £800.
British Gas has also been slow to answer the phone to customers. It regularly performed poorly in tests for our Pick Up or Pay Up campaign, which demands faster call-answering times at major firms. Reporters were left on hold for up to 51 minutes.
A British Gas spokesman says: ‘We’ve recruited an additional 700 people to ensure customers can contact us and we are proud of how our teams are supporting around a million energy customers each month with their bills.
‘We don’t always get everything right, but we are constantly looking at how we can do more to deliver for our customers.’
Phone failing at beleaguered BT
Slack: Customers calling BT helplines routinely had to wait for at least 45 minutes
All of a sudden this autumn, BT became the phone firm that struggled to pick up the phone.
Frustrated customers calling its helplines routinely had to wait on hold for at least 45 minutes.
Many customers wanted to contact the telecoms giant to complain about broadband problems or engineers failing to show up. One reader was left in the lurch when an engineer visit was cancelled without her being notified.
‘The BT call handler gave me a rearranged date, but couldn’t confirm that the engineer would definitely turn up then,’ she says.
Nick Lane, managing director of service for BT, says: ‘I’m sorry for the problems experienced by the Daily Mail readers.
‘Recently, there have been some delays due to industrial action which has resulted in longer call wait times as we clear this backlog. This doesn’t reflect the good customer service we provide overall, with more satisfied customers now than any other provider, according to Ofcom’s Comparing Customer Service report.
‘We are dedicated to helping our customers, fixing more than two-thirds of problems in the first call and answering 73 pc of calls within 60 seconds. We are working hard to clear the backlog and reduce call-waiting times for customers.’
Dismal DWP piles up the blunders
Blunders: The Department for Work and Pensions
A catalogue of blunders this year has earned the Department for Work and Pensions a place on our dreaded shortlist.
First, it emerged that more than 237,000 women had been underpaid state pension. To make matters worse, the pension department has been painfully slow in correcting these errors — and sometimes even compounded them. It’s left thousands living on a reduced income.
Retirees turning 66 have also faced months of delays to receive their first state pension payment because of DWP ‘staffing issues’.
And as Money Mail reports today, 60,000 have waited months for much-needed pension credit.
Readers also say they have found it difficult to contact DWP by phone and email.
In April, it ranked among the worst Whitehall departments for working from home, with only 27 per cent of staff in the office.
A DWP spokesman says: ‘We remain committed to ensuring we deliver our critical services through these challenging times and continue to focus on improving customer experience.
‘The action we are taking now will correct historical state pension underpayments. We have set up a dedicated team and devoted significant resources towards completing this.
‘Additional resources have been deployed to ensure we deal with the increase in pension credit claims as quickly as possible, while successful claims and arrears will be paid accordingly to ensure those who are entitled do not miss out.’
Frustration boiling at E.on
Complaints: E.on sent customers banal advice on how to keep warm
When E.on sent out a pair of socks to customers — alongside banal advice on how to keep warm — it was a bad omen.
That was back in January and the firm was forced to apologise. But since then, the complaints have rolled in.
Readers have found it difficult to contact E.ON, with one customer left on hold for 80 minutes.
Others told us they felt the firm pestered them to have a smart meter installed when they didn’t want one.
One reader pushed to have a smart meter says: ‘I am at the end of my tether with E.ON and feel that I am being harassed.’
An E.ON spokesman says: ‘Our colleagues work tirelessly to ensure we provide good levels of service for many millions of customers, as proven by our “excellent” rating on Trustpilot.
‘Any complaint is one too many, and we always say sorry when we get things wrong or when we fall below the standards that our customers deserve.’
John Lewis credit chaos
Card tricks: John Lewis has upset loyal customers
It’s one of the country’s best-loved and most iconic brands —famous, in fact, for its customer service. But all has not been well at John Lewis.
It irked thousands of loyal shoppers by asking them to reapply for John Lewis credit cards they had used for years.
The reason was simply that John Lewis was switching its credit card supplier from HSBC to NewDay.
Yet many long-standing customers were rejected for the new cards. Some had perfect credit scores, and plenty of income, and couldn’t understand why they were being turfed out by their favourite shop.
Hundreds of you wrote to Money Mail and the firm promised to investigate the cases we sent.
In August, John Lewis also announced it was retiring its ‘never knowingly undersold’ price match policy.
The department store chain blamed growing competition from online retailers — but it left customers knowingly underwhelmed.
One reader wrote in, saying: ‘If we can no longer depend on John Lewis, who can we depend on?’
A John Lewis spokesman says: ‘We’re recognised by the Institute of Customer Service as offering the best customer service of any retailer. We’re always working to improve and recently opened our first School of Service, where we offer dedicated training to enhance the customer experience.
‘The vast majority of customers experienced a quick and easy application for our new credit card, but we’re sorry this wasn’t the case for everyone.
‘We’ve listened to feedback and made improvements.’
Passport office logjam
Backlog: The Passport Office has been guilty of woeful service this year
Thousands of travellers were plunged into chaos by the Passport Office’s woeful service this year. Its backlog of applications for new passports ballooned to 550,000 at the end of June, as straightforward renewals took months.
This is despite boss Thomas Greig admitting the department had planned for an uptick in applications after the pandemic.
Hundreds of customers struggled to get through on phone lines and book appointments, in what was described by MPs as a shambles and a ‘complete failure’.
Desperate would-be travellers were also caught in long queues outside the office in London.
Readers said they became increasingly frustrated at having to spend days phoning the Passport Office, some making more than 30 calls without getting through.
Delays derailed holiday plans, business trips and weddings, with one in ten applicants waiting more than ten weeks for documents.
A Home Office spokesman says: ‘The impact of Covid-19 on passport services is not unique to the United Kingdom, with passport-issuing authorities across the world having reported challenges for their service.
‘Despite this, we have processed a record number of applications in 2022, with more than 95 per cent being completed within ten weeks.
‘While a small percentage of our customers did not receive the service that they should rightfully expect earlier this year, we have worked hard to rectify this.’
Left in the lurch by Paypal
Fraud threat: Paypal has frozen accounts without warning
It boasts of being the faster, safer way to pay — but scores of PayPal users beg to differ.
Money Mail’s email inbox is stuffed with complaints from frustrated customers who have struggled to get their money back through PayPal when something’s gone wrong with a purchase.
Complaints typically involve a failure to resolve disputes or process refunds. In some cases, customers’ accounts have been frozen without warning — leaving them unable to access their cash.
Most frustratingly, you tell us it’s extremely hard to get someone at PayPal to help. To contact PayPal, users have to log in to their account to find the right phone number. They are then directed to use its automated chatbot service.
Those who do call the customer service number must answer a litany of questions before they are allowed to speak to a real person.
One reader told us fraudsters spent £500 on her PayPal account. But instead of refunding her, PayPal threatened to send debt collectors for the money.
She says she rang the firm 15-20 times and often waited for up to an hour on hold.
A PayPal spokesman says: ‘We strive to give customers the best possible service and apologise to anyone who may have had a less satisfactory experience.’
Santander slows on scams
Cuts: Santander slashed opening hours at 450 of its High Street banks
Customer service appears to have dropped down Santander’s priority list.
In July, it slashed opening hours at 450 of its High Street banks, so they shut at 3pm rather than 4.30pm on weekdays, and reduced Saturday hours at 316 branches.
In addition, Money Mail revealed the bank does not have a dedicated fraud hotline.
Santander also came under fire for its slow responses to fraud when the case of Charlotte Morgan went viral on social media.
Charlotte revealed how a thief had stolen her Santander bank card from her gym locker and gone on a £8,000 spending spree.
The bank insisted it was her fault and she was refunded the full amount only when the story appeared in newspapers.
Mike Regnier, chief executive of Santander UK, says: ‘We’re extremely disappointed to be shortlisted and it is certainly not how we want our customers to view us, particularly given the significant progress we have made over the past year in terms of our levels of service.
‘We remain committed to ensuring our customers receive the support they require and use our customers’ feedback to help improve our services.’
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