UK consumers lift lid on customer service failings

One in six Britons claim to experience poor customer service at least once a week, with many blaming the attitude and competence of staff.

Despite the British public’s reputation for patience, most UK consumers demand a speedy response rate. Photo credit PA
A study, published today by The Institute of Customer Service, reveals that UK organisations will suffer if this trend continues, as 43 percent of consumers say they have purposely not bought a second product or service from an organisation, following a less than satisfactory experience.  
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Jo Causon, CEO of The Institute of Customer Service, says: “Excellent customer service is something we all demand and something we all expect, yet it is clearly not something we all see.
Anything less than the best service risks customers taking their business elsewhere and, in today’s uncertain economy, there are no organisations that can afford to take long-term customer relationships for granted.
“With 70 percent of the UK’s working population in a customer-facing role the impact that good service can have on customer retention and repeat purchase should be the number one concern of any Boardroom.
“Service skills may come naturally for some, but where they are absent, they can be still be learned.  Successful executive teams  realise that by focusing on service skills development they are investing in the long-term stability and future of their organisation.”
More than 2,000 consumers were questioned about the service levels they experience. The biggest concerns raised include employees lacking the capability to be of immediate help (56 percent), ‘disinterested’ staff (51 percent), poor complaint handling (35 percent), and ‘unhelpful’ attitudes (36 percent).  
As a result, 84 percent believe customer-facing staff need more training to reverse the trend.
When it comes to securing brand loyalty, the British public considers a courteous and helpful attitude (18 percent), staff providing correct information at the first attempt (17 percent) and professionalism (16 percent) as the top three attributes, warning that anything less will turn them away.
Despite the British public’s reputation for patience, most UK consumers demand a speedy response rate.
Almost half (46 percent) expect a response within 24 hours if they contact an organisation via email, with over two fifths (42 percent) saying the same for website contact and one third (33 percent) for social media enquiries. Instant online chat is now also ranked by 73 percent of consumers as the best way to deal with an organisation.
The research suggests that UK plc needs to pay greater attention to the way they personalise a customer’s experience.
Tailoring special offers, knowing names or birthdays and having a record of previous interactions are qualities that customers rate highly, with a third of people (34 percent) saying that this, alone, is enough to make them buy from that company again.
There is some good news for UK organisations as, across all sectors, many companies are getting it right.
For example, the latest UK Customer Satisfaction Index reveals that a customer’s faith in product quality and reliability has increased over the past year.
To support organisations as they strive to meet consumer demands, The Institute has launched a new Academy – offering a wide range of people development programmes, professional training and courses for employees in customer facing roles.

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