Is their a correlation between claims of CSR and poor customer service?

According to this recent article “BT named worst customer service provider” the companies worst at customer service in the UK are:

1. BT
2. British Gas
3. Sky
4. Virgin Media
5. Carphone Warehouse
6. Vodafone
8. AOL
9. Barclays
10. O2

All of these firms have very public commitments to corporate responsibility.

BT, Vodafone and British Gas are feted as leaders, often by magazines such as my own.

On sustainability, apart from the Carphone Warehouse and AOL, I’d say all of these companies are doing some interesting work on environmental, social and governance issues.

But, to sound like a Daily Mail columnist for a second, the basics do come first.

Really, they do.

I’d be interested to know if blog readers feel customer service is declining in the recession.

I’ve certainly noticed HSBC’s has been declining. I had to upgrade to the premium ten pound a month service so that I can talk to someone I can understand, and who understands me.

I’m not a customer of the other companies, except 02, who I haven’t found strong in the past, until I became a business customer. Since then, they’ve not been bad.

And as recent Sky customer, I’ve found them the worst since I once, briefly, tried to do business with Virgin.

Every Sky department tells you to call another one, and none will take responsibility for fixing problems.

Tonight I spent an hour and ten minutes on the phone to two Sky reps, only to be told that the particular issue (missing components) is not their fault and I must call the installation company, who they deny are even a supplier! Astonishing. Almost Python-esque.

Sigh. Still, I suppose one has the CR report to read whilst on hold, should one run out of all reading materials beforehand and have no access to television, conversation or crayons.

Sorry for the bitter end-note. I do really want to like these companies, I really do.

I just wish they would help themselves and take some responsibility for decent customer service.

Let me know what you think. I’d be interested in comments from readers.

If you are awful at customer service, does that negate your corporate responsibility efforts?

P.S. I do feel a bit better after writing this. Blog therapy. But here’s someone who really has got their revenge on a company for bad customer services. I guess talent helps!


  1. I came to your blog just when I was surfing on this topic. I am happy that I found your blog and information I wanted.

  2. As a consumer, i completely agree that CR won't add any good credentials to customers' suffering of some of these companies. I left Vodafone, BT & Sky due to their arrogant & dire customer service. Lucky those who don't have to deal with any!

    From a CSR view point, would it matter even if they switch all their energy consumption to renewables?! I'm not sure… Their service is nothing special and their customer service is surely traumatic! So even if they are cheaper i'd rather use a good service provider & pay the difference to Green Peace or WWF rather than pay the lousy performers the extra premium for some RECs they claim, or some trees planting in a forest, or carbon offsetting of the CEO's jet!

  3. It would be interesting to know whether there really is a correlation. It's reminiscent of the folk-saying about men who drive flashy cars trying to compensate for a lack in other areas. I'm sure it's false as a generalization, but true in at least some cases. Likewise, I wonder if at least some companies fly the CSR flag as a way of making up for inadequacies of other kinds.

  4. Anonymous

    I believe that customer service should be considered a core component of CSR. If CSR is about being accountable and responsive to stakeholders and a critical stakeholder group is customers, then it only makes sense that companies re-examine their customer service model and drive improvements.

    For reference, I would point to Shae-Bae Kim, president/CEO of SK Telecom. His keynote address at the 2008 BSR conference made no reference to environmental sustainability or community relations, but rather focused on how they were being a responsible company through their customer service efforts.

    For more info, here's a summary of the keynote: http://www.bsr.org/ClientFiles/BAS/Conference2008/Materials/BSR_Conf2008_SK_Telecom_Plenary.pdf

  5. Smitha

    CSR is used as market booster, a way to put their firm noticeable and bank on it. Corporate responsibility includes Customer service. Doing great social and environmental works and ignoring the customers of your core business ..what kind of social responsibility is that? Guess we shouldn't forget that when ever we get bad customer service it is mainly due to company's policies or due to an employee's incapacity to handle the situation. If it is the second reason it could stem from lack of training or lack of involvement. That would lead us to the organisation's responsibility to employees. Is it not the time to view CSR as whole some concept , taking in to account how the organisation's policies are shaped towards the employees and customers of their core business?

  6. Sitao Lao

    Wanted to draw your attention to HP, who some may argue are world leaders in computers, but have actually refused to take responsibility for a fault in their dvxxxx range of laptops. Here's a link to their own website complaints page http://h30434.www3.hp.com/psg/board/message?board.id=Hardware&thread.id=1121&view=by_date_ascending&page=1.
    (Apologies for the long URL) What has happened since these comments? nada. I was one of their victims and spend ages on customer service which was not only time consuming and unhelpful, they said it was a fault but nothing to do with them. Incidentally, every laptop that has crashed has happened after the warranty has expired.
    But their CSR policy could win awards. Ah the irony! I am certainly not recommending HP and as someone who works alot on CSR with companies, it riles me up even more, as if you cannot get it right with the people who keep you afloat, you've lost some important business brain cell along the way!

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