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 Half as many UK consumers remember a good experience with a customer service department, than they do a bad one. This is according to contact centre software company Aspect's latest research into the views and experiences of UK consumers* with the companies that they buy from.

According to Aspect’s Consumer satisfaction benchmarking report 2013, less than half of us (47 per cent) have had a good experience when dealing with customer service departments in the UK, and this is almost always down to ‘friendly and approachable staff’ (65 per cent) and the company purely doing what it said it would do (52 per cent). Almost a third of us (32 per cent) say that we have had a bad customer experience in the last year, with two instances on average.

More than two thirds (67 per cent) of unhappy consumers made a formal complaint in the last 12 months, including 1 in 5 (21 per cent) who chose to use social media to air their objections. Of those that complained, 63 per cent said that their complaint was not resolved, or that the resolution that they did get was unsatisfactory.

When expectations aren’t met, the sting smarts financially for organisations, and for the long-term. Mark King, Senior VP Europe and Africa at Aspect explained: “With a UK population of 62 million people over the age of 16, there are 9 million people that have made an unresolved complaint to a company in the last year. That’s an alarming 14.5 per cent of the UK population that is extremely unhappy with the way that their providers have treated them. This is more than a wake-up call for organisations to do something about it.”

King added: “Despite being happy in the main with the customer service that we receive in the UK, it seems we are a nation of complainers, and companies just aren’t dealing with this properly. Mass adoption of mobile devices, developments in contact centre technology and strong media interest in a tough economy means that our expectations with the companies that we deal with are rising significantly.

“And we are more likely to air our frustration with them if things go wrong, because on the face of it, it’s a simple thing to get right. Customer-facing organisations – from local council and energy suppliers through to retailers and loan providers – need to recognise that there is a link between customer satisfaction and effort, and complaints arise when companies do not deal with problems effectively, and with clear customer communication,” he concluded.

Other key findings include:

–       More people (55 per cent) said that they prefer a quick resolution to a complaint, than a company ‘going over and above’ to make them happy, such as compensation or discounts, and this is more popular among over 55s (60 per cent)

–       13 per cent of consumers would switch provider due to an unresolved complaint, and 3 in 10 (30 per cent) consumers would switch due to just one bad customer experience

–       More than 2 in 5 (44 per cent) consumers have switched at least one supplier in the last year, most commonly, over a quarter (26 per cent) switched insurance provider

–       78 per cent of consumers claimed that they were either satisfied or extremely satisfied with the service that they received from online retailers, and 1 in 5 (20 per cent) felt it offered the best service – the highest out of all 13 types of company

–       Internet Service Providers (ISPs) provided the most inconsistent customer service. Most individual instances of good and bad customer service were attributed to ISPs (31 per cent and 27 per cent respectively)

*Study of 1,000 UK-based consumers over the age of 16. Survey by Vanson Bourne, commissioned by Aspect, in May 2013.

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