Is customer service getting worse in the UK?

customer complaintsThere seems to be a consensus within the UK that customer service levels are dropping.  In this climate, businesses which provide outstanding customer service enjoy an important edge over the competition.

However, two studies have been conducted recently which have thrown different aspects of customer service into the spotlight.

From the customer’s point of view

In February of this year (2015), The Telegraph published the findings of a report by the UK’s Ombudsman’s Services.  The UK Ombudsman’s Services provides dispute resolution for the property, energy, communications and licensing sectors.

Their report, the Consumer Action Monitor, revealed a noticeable rise in the volume and frequency of formal complaints made by customers about businesses in these sectors:

  • In 2014, there were 66 million complaints submitted about products and/or services. This is almost double the amount in 2013.
  • Nearly half of all customers ended up making a formal complaint when encountering problems with products or services as opposed to only 34% in 2013.
  • The report included some telling information about the way customers perceive companies. 33% of customers said they felt that big businesses were more interested in making money than providing value and quality to their customers.
  • It appears that customers are more willing to speak up when they receive poor service than they have been in the past. 80% of consumers say they would take action if they received bad service.  This is up by 13% since 2013.

How companies are responding to new demands

The Eptica 2015 Multichannel Customer Experience Study was published in March of this year.  The study researched the performance of 100 of the UK’s top companies in the area of customer service.  The study investigated each company’s response to queries submitted to them via web, email, online chat and social media customer service channels.

The queries emulated questions, concerns and support requests commonly submitted by customers.

The findings of the study included:

  • One of the more unexpected findings was the web scored the highest for the best channel via which to deliver customer service. Of the companies participating in the study, 64% of online queries were successfully answered.  This was an improvement on last year’s statistics, but the study showed an increasingly widening gap between the highest and lowest performing companies.
  • Although more companies are offering a customer service email channel, the ability of companies to successfully resolve email queries appears to be falling.
  • In-keeping with the trend to embrace new technology, more companies have launched customer service social media channels. However, the study showed that, as with email, success was inconsistent.
  • Although 25% of the companies offered webchat, only 9% of them were functional. Webchat offers quick and accurate resolutions to queries, but many companies are failing to properly support this channel with adequate time, staff and resources.
  • The proliferation of communication channels has resulted in confusion amongst customers. For companies, the consequence has been hit-and-miss performance and rising operational costs.

The upshot of these studies is that customer expectations are rising faster than companies are currently able to keep up with.

Gradually, companies will adapt to cope with these changes, but in the interim, customer experience may get worse before it gets better.

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