How are your New Year’s Resolutions going? If you rolled your eyes when you read that sentence, I feel your pain.

One of the more depressing features of January are the endless guides on all the things you should be doing to improve your life. From totally unrealistic savings plans for people who already have it all to health plans only suitable for unhinged ultra-marathon runners, most of these guides make me want to pig out on fast-food and go to bed for a week.

I’m a great believer in realistic support and advice that works in the real world. So you feel that you’re achieving things by starting small and working your way up. With a healthy dollop of failing and starting over again. Making improvements to your daily routine is a positive thing to do. But make sure your goals are attainable.

But hold on a second! Why should we be making all of the effort, when many of life’s biggest frustrations are out of our control? Lots of things in the world today are totally unfair and there’s nothing we can do about it!

That’s why this week I’m not going to tell you what you need to do to sort your life out. I’m setting businesses, regulators and the Government seven simple New Year’s resolutions to help us all have an epic 2024.

Let’s see how many they stick to…

Get rid of automatic checkouts

Does anyone like auto-checkouts? Do the words ‘unexpected item in bagging area’ give you the chills? You are not alone. I recently spent a very sweary 20 minutes at a large clothing retailer attempting to register a loyalty card, remove tags of clothes, scan them and bag everything up myself. The lone staff member sympathised and told me on the sly “everyone hates the auto-tills, we hate them and if people don’t complain, they’ll get rid of the staff and we’ll all be stuck with them”. Booths supermarket has taken the plunge and ditched the auto-tills. Vote with your feet, refuse to use them and join a queue instead. Fight automation and save some jobs too!

Make all businesses have telephone lines

I find it astounding that some of the biggest online retailers don’t have customer service telephone lines. That’s because there’s no definitive legal requirement for medium and large businesses to have a telephone line. Some humungous firms – I’m looking at you Facebook – don’t let you interact with a human at all. Until this changes, if a business doesn’t want to talk to you, don’t give it your business.

Measure businesses performance by complaint resolution

My jaw often drops when I see the ‘official’ performance figures for certain businesses. Despite being universally loathed by people, some of the worst offenders manage to get relatively mild marks for customer service and complaints. Well that’s because you can’t make a complaint if you can’t get through on the phone can you? Or if the business fails to register your complaint on the computer. Weirdly, higher complaint numbers can mean a business is actually listening to its customers. So we need to make businesses publish stats that cover how long it takes to answer the phone, how long it takes to resolve complaints and how happy people are with the resolution. Then we’ll know for which businesses care the most about their customers.

Ombudsmen for everything

I’m a massive fan of Ombudsman and Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) services. These complaint resolution organisations are designed to be free, fair and impartial. The idea is you can go to an Ombudsman instead of having to go to court and get a straightforward resolution to your complaint. But less than half of all business sectors in the UK have an Ombudsman or ADR scheme – astoundingly, there isn’t one for retailers or delivery companies. So let’s have a separate ‘one size fits all’ Ombudsman scheme for every sector in the UK that operates in exactly the same way, so we all have a free and fair route to justice.

Ban bonkers business speak

The head of Boeing recently said a ‘quality escape’ had occurred mid-flight on an Air Alaska plane, which is an interesting way to say that a massive chunk of the plane fell off. I hate corporate jargon with a passion. I can’t bear ‘actions’ or ‘competencies’ – and they’re the least offensive ones. Corporate mangling of the English language is mildly irritating. But the reason I’d like to see it banned is because these words are used to hide much more important policy decisions, like reductions in service or redundancies. They also help businesses avoid the realities and consequences or their actions. Say what you mean, so we know what you mean!

Introduce pay and performance tables

Everyone has an axe to grind about delivery companies and we all have a horror story about a parcel left in a recycling bin or one that got nicked from the foyer in your block of flats. But there’s a reason why those delivery drivers are legging it up and down corridors and roads across the land. Across all sectors, impossible targets, minimum wages and despicable zero hours contracts inevitably result in poor service. I’d like to see national minimum pay tables, so we can see what businesses pay their hard-working staff. I also think we should know if businesses pay benefits to their employees too or sticks them on contracts with no rights or support for sickness or old age. I’d like my money to go to a business that cares about its staff.

The three click rule

I lost 20 minutes trying to cancel my broadband service online last year. I wasted another 15 minutes trying to remove a channel I’d subscribed to on my smart TV too (without success). Which begs the question: why can we buy things with one click and not cancel them as easily? So I’d like to introduce a ‘three click rule’. On any website, you should be able to find anything you want – contact details, information, personal data – all within no more than three clicks. And the same for all app and phone options too.

So what do you think? I’d love to know what resolutions you’d set for businesses for 2024. And if you’re willing to vote with your feet if they don’t deliver!

Martyn James is a leading consumer rights campaigner, TV and radio broadcaster and journalist.

Please share me around

Share useful info with your friends