Service levels are up – and so are complaints!

People face fewer problems when buying goods and services than they did five years ago, a survey for the Institute of Customer Service suggested. But the proportion of those who made a complaint rose over the same period.

Staff attitude and competence were the most common causes of complaint, although the institute said that there were still many "silent sufferers".

Those who failed to make a complaint had suffered from issues in the transport sector. The report suggested that the percentage of customers asked who suffered a problem had fallen from 17% in January 2008 to 11.7% in July 2012.

However, over the same period, the proportion of these people who complained about these problems increased from 72% to 76%. Complaints were most commonly made about local public services, the institute said.

"Our research suggests that customers are most satisfied when complaints are dealt with immediately," said Jo Causon, chief executive of the institute.

"As a result, organisations need to ensure that all customer contacts are handled consistently well, and that customers are not passed from pillar to post."

The research is both a strategic and practical guide for anyone involved in complaint handing, or seeking to understand what causes complaints and what influences satisfaction with complaint handling. It includes insight into the state of complaints in the UK, why customers do or don’t complain if they have a problem, what issues customers complain about, and what drives satisfaction with complaint handling. It also contains comparisons across 13 sectors, as well as a checklist of actions for organisations to consider in building the ideal complaint handling process.