Express says dealing with complaints “a waste of money”

The Daily Express finds it risible that the BBC  has a guide telling staff how to deal with complaints. Actually, it’s not the BBC at all, but an entirely independent company subcontracted to run a call centre for TV Licensing, but apparently they’re basically the same thing so whatever. It’s not really a guide to dealing with complaints either, but a general guide for call centre staff, which mentions complaints among the many things they may have to deal with.

Anyway, a guide for dealing with complaints! How bizarre! Of course, we all know the Daily Express never has to deal with complaints ever, so they’re entirely justified attacking the BBC about this.

The Daily Express claims that “Much of the advice in the 964-page book appears to state the blindingly obvious – including warning staff that the words “idiots”, “shambles” or “useless” may mean people are unhappy.”

Well, you can read the book online (warning, massive page) at What Do They Know? (a site which collects Freedom of Information requests) and in fact, much of the advice in the book explains the finer legal points of TV licences – how diplomatic immunity affects TV licensing, for instance* – and a good chunk more of it explains the codes used on the call centre’s various computer systems. Only two pages – 238 and 239 – explain how to recognise a complaint, and do so only for the sake of bookkeeping , so the call centre staff know whether or not they should log a call as a complaint or just a combatively worded question.

The Express also claims “It also includes prepared answers to regular objections to programmes considered offensive“, which since this is a TV Licensing call centre guide, not the BBC complaints department one, seems a bit odd. In fact, there is only a single mention in the whole book of offensive programming: the hypothetical complaint “The BBC is producing poor programmes, some are offensive. I am only going to pay a proportion of the fee“**. Still, never content with attacking the BBC on one front, the Express can’t resist going for the old “The BBC is offensive and out of touch” comment too.

The closest article comes to actual analysis is another churned out comment from Martin Sinclair of the TaxPayers’ Alliance (of course the TaxPayers’ Alliance commented):

There probably are lots of complaints about the unfair and expensive licence fee but ordinary families would expect that staff can identify an obvious complaint without lengthy guidance and training, at more cost. There might be fewer complaints if the BBC kept costs under control.

I wonder if the TaxPayers’ Alliance was aware that the Daily Express had completely misrepresented the nature of the guide when they churned out that comment? Or that the advice, covering a single sheet of paper in a very large typeface, was hardly lengthy nor costly? Or that the document was actually produced by the outsourcing company Capita, not the BBC itself? Perhaps the TaxPayers’ Alliance has found the key to “keeping costs under control” – don’t waste money looking into a story before shooting your mouth off about it.

* Diplomats are expected to pay the TV licence but if they refuse, or an embassy has unlicensed televisions on its premises, TV Licensing are powerless to do anything about it.

** The suggested reply by the way is masterfully tactful:

The licence fee is not payment for BBC services, it is payment for a legal permission to install and use a television receiver. The full fee prescribed in law is payable regardless of which channels are viewed. We (and the BBC) are not allowed by law to accept any payment other than the prescribed fee for a licence. The BBC do wish to know the views of the public and these can be made to BBC Information, PO Box 1922, Glasgow, G2 3WT.


  1. #1 by Press Not Sorry on Monday, 11th October 2010 - 16:23 GMT+0100

    “Prepared answers” are a standard feature of call centres. It wouldn’t do to have staff saying different things, or possibly answering questions wrongly. If this is not the case now, I’ll gladly admit I’m wrong, but it was certainly true when I worked in such places.

    [Perhaps the TaxPayers’ Alliance has found the key to “keeping costs under control” – don’t waste money looking into a story before shooting your mouth off about it.]
    I especially liked this bit. TPA spokespeople are paid to have an opinion on every issue, but not to offer any solutions. In fact, their quotes are always so predictable the papers should simply say, “We asked the TPA to comment,” and leave the rest to our imagination.

  2. #2 by ukenagashi on Monday, 11th October 2010 - 17:45 GMT+0100

    If we weren’t trained to deal with complaints what the fuck would the Daily Express wish us to do? I mean, the obvious next step is to think “If I was calling a call centre and was making a complaint, would I prefer to feel that the staff member knew what they were doing?”

    As for having prepared answers, the contract I’m on doesn’t have scripted answers (more’s the fucking pity T_T) but surely it’s obvious that the “prepared” part of that is “KNOWING THE TERMS AND CONDITIONS/RULES/WHATEVER THE CUSTOMER IS TALKING ABOUT”. Right? …That’s obvious, right?

    And call me a wuss, but when I’m on the phone to an unhappy customer, speaking a foreign language, I cling desperately to every scrap of guidelines I’ve ever been given when trying to fix the problem.

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