One of the ways that I use virtual assistants is to help me file complaints for things. Such as if a delivery vehicle is driving recklessly, or if a streetlight is out of service on my block.

Here is one example where I had a long wait time at an airport, sent off a quick complaint, and got a very detailed note back. I actually felt guilty about how long the person must have spent (at taxpayer expense) writing my reply instead of working to fix the root cause of the issue.

I sent this email:

After my flight today from Tokyo to London on Virgin America, I had to wait in line for immigration for 2 hours. From 3-5pm. Awful. Why such bad service? At Heathrow Airport.

My virtual assistant converted to this letter to the complaints department of the UK Visas and Immigration bureau:

I am writing on behalf of my boss, Mr. Nick Gray. He flew in to Heathrow this afternoon from Tokyo on Virgin America Airlines and had to wait in line for over two hours, from 3:00 PM to 5:00 PM. He would like to file a complaint, and to know why the service was so slow today. Thank you very much for your assistance in this matter.

A few days later, I got this extremely detailed email back:

Thank you for your email dated 1 October 2014 regarding Mr Nick Gray and his experience at London Heathrow Airport terminal 3, earlier that day. This has been passed to me as the officer responsible for handling your complaint. Before I respond to your specific concerns I would like to assure you all complaints about Border Force and the services we provide are treated seriously and are used as an opportunity to learn and improve services. I appreciate you taking the time to raise your concerns with us. Our procedures are set out in detail at: link here.

I am sorry to learn Mr Gray has been delayed at border control. Border security is our top priority, but we always aim to keep disruption to a minimum by using our staff flexibly to meet demand. Improving the speed at which passengers are processed needs to be balanced with ensuring the security of the UK border. While not mutually exclusive, it is a delicate balance.

Our sampling of queues shows the vast majority of passengers do pass through passport control quickly. Queues are caused by a number of factors, including incorrect flight manifests or early or late planes which result in bunching. We work with the airport operator to match arrival volumes and staffing levels to maximise passenger flow.

There is a published service standard for queue times at the border which specifies 95% of British, EEA and Swiss passengers should wait no longer than 25 minutes at passport control and 95% of non EEA passengers should wait no longer than 45 minutes.

On the day in question, between the time of 1400 hours and 1700 hours, a total of 4447 passengers arrived at terminal 3. The expected amount of Border Force staff had regrettably been diminished by two – one instance of sickness and one instance of special leave. As a result all casework was suspended, with the exception of one case in which the passenger became unwell and the attention of an officer was required. All available officers were deployed to the controls, which included the use of any appropriate office staff.

Despite these efforts our service standard was breached on three occasions. I am sorry the level of service provided by Border Force has fallen below your expectations and I regret any inconvenience caused. I hope when Mr Gray travels in future he will be able to form a more positive opinion of Border Force, but should he experience any cause for dissatisfaction he may ask to speak to the operational manager who can address any problems he may have at the time.

If you believe this complaint has not been dealt with in the right way you may contact us at the postal or email address above and a correspondence manager will check the process used to look into your complaint, to ensure it was both appropriate and followed correctly. You must do this within one month of the date of this letter.

The Border Force Correspondence Team are keen to continually review and improve our services. To help us do so, we would be grateful if you could complete a short online survey. Please access the survey using the following link: link here.

Yours sincerely

By email
Mr S Heritage
Correspondence Officer

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