Three Quarters of Brits Think Customer Service is Poor

From scripted customer service bots to conflicting advice from representatives, 74% of Brits say UK customer service is missing the mark…

A survey of 2,488 18 to 65 year olds, by customer insight company Feefo, has told some shocking home truths about the state of Britain’s customer service industry. Only 10% of people said they said a ‘good’ experience, with nearly three-quarters complaining that the standard is ‘poor’.

Matt West, Chief Marketing Officer at Feefo said, “Considering how much emphasis UK businesses now place on customer service, the fact that UK service levels don’t appear to be hitting the mark is likely concerning many companies.”

So what appears to be the issue, exactly? Take your pick. The most common complaint, made by 82% of customers, was about frustrating robotic or scripted responses from customer service teams.

Fortunately, our extensive list of UK contact numbers connects you to the relevant department. And perhaps that could help fix a second key flaw in British customer service – because 77% of people struggled to understand foreign call centres, which gave them a negative experience.

However, in the telecoms industry at least, that particular issue looks set to improve, because 2016 saw some positive changes made. BT promised to hire 1000 representatives at four UK call centres by the end of March 2017 in response to similar complaints made about their Indian call centres. And they’re not alone, because EE also created more than 1,000 jobs to answer 100% of calls in the UK last year.

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So hopefully, you’ll soon notice the improvements, after all, BT and EE were the most complained about broadband providers in the first three months of 2016. Although, let’s be fair – Feefo’s research survey showed that customer service in the tech sector was faring better than the rest.

West said, “It is however encouraging to see some business sectors including energy, telecoms and insurance have fared better than other industries and suggests that these companies have been taking customer feedback on board and working to improve their offering.”

Of course, not all customer service woes are so easily solved and there’s plenty of work to be done, in terms of training customer service representatives and cutting wait times.

Four in five people were given conflicting advice by different customer service advisors, making the situation more complicated than it should have been. But at least they made it through to speak to someone, because two-thirds of people complained about lengthy hold times.

Wondering who the worst culprits are for ‘poor’ customer service? That’ll be the travel industry at large, which came bottom in the survey with 63% of people complaining about the service they received. Followed by leisure & hospitality 57%) and retail (54%).

American customer service outdoes British for the first time ever

John Lewis, darling of the British high street, responsible for the nation’s tears every December, is no longer the best British Company for customer service. That’s according to the semi-annual UK Customer Service Index that surveyed over 10,700 shoppers in January.

Every six months, they ask people of all different ages and backgrounds to rate customer service in every sector thinkable – from banks and public services, to tourism and transport. They’re sticklers for professionalism and quality, with a taste for swift service and helpful complaint handling. But you may find the results of the non-food retailer category particularly surprising.

Why? John Lewis topped the chart for years, but this time around their winning streak ended a drop out of the top three into its lowest position in seven years. Sixth! Don’t panic. They’re not suddenly mistreating customers.

No. They’ve scored higher than 80 in every Index since 2013. Perhaps you’ve experienced their consistently excellent customer service first hand? Non-food retailers are generally stepping up their game. Competition is tougher here than in any other sector.

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For the first time since the index began in 2009, an American company trumped our own in the non-food retailer category. Amazon is the new Top Dog of customer service. Time will tell if their first physical bookshop in Ohio is up to scratch too!

Their straightforward, quick and personal customer service bumped them up one place from last year to the top of the list. Their score of 86.6 was enough to win them the customer-voted crown. But does an e-commerce site have an unfair advantage over physical businesses? Perhaps John Lewis need to work that bit harder to impress the customers in front of them?

The index sees Energy provider Utility Warehouse crowned runner up, followed by HSBC-owned online bank First Direct and Specsavers, then luxury foodies Waitrose rounding out the top five.

What does all of this mean? Well, let’s be honest, it’s unlikely to change your shopping experience out on the streets and it’s unlikely you’ll choose to spend elsewhere if you’re happy. But any encouragement to improve customer service can only be a good for us! Companies try to outdo each other in competition.

Price Wars: Win them with kindness

For many, slashed prices and tempting yellow bargain signs are a wonderful sight. Wherever you food shop, it’s hard to ignore them as you push your trolley full of bargains around. That’s the Price War for you. Supermarkets battle hard to be the best value for money.

It’s what we customers want and expect, right? As it turns out, maybe not. In fact, the Institute of Customer Service is now warning retailers to stop focussing on beating each other in the race to the bottom. Deliver top notch customer service instead.

Customer satisfaction has dropped faster in this market than any other UK sector. Maybe Morrison’s should think again about slashing over 1,000 prices by 19% this February? Everyone from Asda to Tesco and Sainsbury’s would benefit from recommitting to excellent customer service.

Hire friendly, helpful people and treat them well

Great customer service has personality. That comes from your staff, not a faceless corporation and definitely not from the self-checkout robot. These people welcome money-spenders into your store with a smile, help them when they need it and build friendships with regulars.

Some people are born friendly – try to get them on-board, then point them in the right direction. Ask them to say ‘hello’, ‘thank you’, ‘can I help you pack your bags?’ Basic manners make customers more inclined to part with their hard-earned cash. Offering them profit shares, which tie bonuses the overall success of the business, are another great way of fostering pride and great customer service.

Treating your staff right, making them feel valued and happy, will make them more inclined to deliver excellent customer service. Of course, a morale-boosting refresher session wouldn’t hurt from time to time, to praise your staff and give them tips on getting even better.

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Encourage customers to give feedback, then take action

Don’t panic. Mistakes happen. If you acknowledge them, apologise and accept responsibility, you’re already delivering great customer service. Most of the time there’s no harm done if the situation is resolved quickly and painlessly. And if you can’t fix it? At least your customer saw that you cared enough to try.

If you’re really serious about improving your customer service to drive brand loyalty go straight to the horse’s mouth. The best people to point out your flaws are the very people you’re trying to help. Most of the time, they’re only too happy to call you out for your mistakes. It’s character and profit building.

Go the extra mile

Of course, supermarkets should treat everyone the same, no matter how much they spend. But it really is the personal gestures which exceed expectation and show your caring side. They don’t have to be big!

From rewarding loyal customers with discount vouchers to carrying their bags to the car, apologising for queues, and taking them straight to the product they can’t find – thanking them for their loyalty will pay off long term.

All in all, food prices will, of course, always impact where we shop. The Price War will rumble on. But people want more bang for their buck. Brilliant customer service is another way to attract and retain customers, who have a habit of shopping around, and convincing them to stay loyal to your brand.