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Is our UK Customer Service Up To Scratch?

There have been a few news columns of note this week referring to a recent “Handle with Care report” by the UK Consumers Institute of Customer Service (ICS). If you have not had the opportunity to see it, it does make a quick interesting read.

It highlights the point that UK customers face significantly less problems when buying goods and services than they did 5 years ago. It states we are now more inclined to complain when things do go wrong. The report found that the percentage of customers who experience a problem has decreased from 17% in January 2008 to 11.7% in July 2012 whilst the proportion of those that went on to make a complaint rose from 72% to 76% in the same period.

Meanwhile research suggests that issues with staff behaviour cause the majority of customer complaints, and warns there still remains a significant proportion of ‘silent sufferers’ that leave organisations with little opportunity to resolve issues. These figures are based on the findings of over 3000 consumer responses from the UK Customer Satisfaction Index (UKCSI).

People-related issues such as staff attitude and competence seem to cause the majority (62%) of problems eliciting a complaint. In comparison, the quality or reliability of goods and services accounts for just a third (34%) of complaints. When asked about the most annoying or frustrating service problems, customers cited ‘staff attitude’ (rated 8.5 out of 10), ‘staff competence’ (8.4) and ‘organisations not keeping promises’ (8.8). The sectors experiencing the highest proportion of complaints relating to staff attitude and competence are local public services (44% attitude / 36% competence), leisure (36% attitude / 37% competence) and national public services (37% attitude and competence).

“Our research suggests that customers are most satisfied when complaints are dealt with immediately. As a result, organisations need to ensure that all customer contacts are consistently handled well, and that customers are not passed from pillar to post,” Jo Causon Chief Executive of the Institute of Customer Service commented.

Despite the increasing inclination to complain among UK consumers, the report warns that there still exists a worryingly large number of ‘silent sufferers’ — customers that have reason to complain but choose not to, leaving organisations with little opportunity to resolve their issues. 24% of customers who recently experienced a problem did not make a complaint about it. Across the UK adult population this suggests that over one million people experienced a problem but chose not to make a complaint. The majority of these ‘silent sufferers’ (51%) claim that their main reason for avoiding making a complaint is that they think it will make no difference.

Finally the research reveals that 73% of customers who have complained told someone else about their experience, spreading negative word of mouth to an average four people. The most dissatisfied complainers tell even more people — an average of 6.


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