The Consumer Agency receives reports of shortcomings in corporate customer services on a regular basis. Typical cases involve situations in which the phone calls and e-mails of consumers are not responded to in any way or consumers are entirely unable to contact a customer service representative.
The telephone customer services provided by operators are in their own category. However, based on the contacts received by the Consumer Agency, it appears that other companies also occasionally allocate insufficient resources to customer service. For example, reports mention an airline whose customer service provided no assistance in tracking down lost luggage. A digibox importer did not respond in any way to inquiries concerning problems with subtitling and the recording of programmes. A mail-order firm would not explain why an ordered product, which had been paid in advance online by the customer, failed to be delivered.
“Good customer service is an integral aspect of high-standard consumer protection. If customer services don’t function well, customers are unable to utilise the basic rights that they are entitled to as a matter of course – rectifying an error in an invoice or obtaining warranty repair services is not possible if customers can’t make contact,” says Director Anja Peltonen of the Consumer Agency.
The Agency is also concerned by a growing trend of companies treating customer service as a redundant and unprofitable nuisance. An extreme example is provided by the US telecoms operator Sprint Nextel, which cancels the contracts of customers who call their service number too often.
“Companies must take care of customers also after they have managed to lure them into a customer relationship. Well-functioning customer services should be regarded as a competitive advantage that promote customer confidence in the reliability of a company,” Anja Peltonen points out.
Customer service problems can also be viewed as one example of the imbalance between the status of consumers and companies in the market.
“Some times companies stretch the patience of customers quite unreasonably, but are themselves not at all prepared to be flexible towards customers,” says Anja Peltonen.