Customer Satisfaction is up – but so is the time customers take to get issues resolved…

 

Customer Satisfaction is up – but so is the time customers take to get issues resolved…

The Institute of Customer Service yesterday released survey results revealing that the overall level of customer satisfaction has increased. But the survey of more than 10,000 customers also shows that customers are having to work harder to explain.

In short, it’s taking customers more time and effort to get results from the companies they contact. For example, more than half the people surveyed (51%) say we have to get in touch with businesses more than twice to get issues resolved, in the event of a problem.

The increase could be due to higher volumes of customer transactions as the economy improves. However, the increase in effort needed to resolve an issue highlights the need for businesses to do more. The Institute of Customer Service CEO, Jo Causon, says “To turn this around, a greater focus should be given to making things easier and less cumbersome for customers”.

Businesses need to do more about training their staff from the shop floor up to the board and changing the ethos of how they deal with complaints, looking in particular at more modern and popular ways of complaining, such as email, webchat and social media.

Marcus Williamson, editor of the website CEOemail.com, which provides contact details for CEOs, is not surprised by the results. He says:

“We’re seeing customers not getting the answers they want from customer service because those staff are not well trained or because they are not empowered to make a different to the customer’s experience. In these cases, an email to the CEO can get the action that’s needed to make a difference”

Consumer expert Helen Dewdney, The Complaining Cow and author of How to Complain: The Essential Consumer Guide to Getting Refunds, Redress and Results! is not surprised by the results. She has seen an increase in people wanting advice on what to do next when they haven’t got redress at the first stage. She says that this is down to poor training and also people not knowing their legal rights. For example one key law she quotes is The Consumer Rights Act (CRA) 2015, which replaced the Sale and Supply of Goods Act 1994 and Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982, amongst others, which people still try and use. “People need to know and quote appropriate legislation, as under the CRA customers are entitled to services carried out with reasonable skill and care, goods that are as described, are fit for purpose, are of satisfactory quality and be durable.”

5 Tips for efficient and effective complaining:

  • You have 30 days from purchase to claim a refund, after this time you may be offered a repair or replacement. (Consumer Rights Act 2015)
  • In the first instance write to the customer services department politely and objectively so that you have a written record of evidence. Then escalate to the CEO if you are not happy with response or if you have waited more than 10 working days for an answer. He/she will not necessarily respond personally but your case will then be escalated to the Executive Customer Services team to be resolved.
  • Quote the relevant laws.
  • Say what you want to happen, refund, explanation, apology, etc.
  • Say what you will do if not satisfied with the response, such as going to the relevant ombudsman or Small Claims Court.

Top 20 Tips on efficient and effective complaining

GET THE BOOK! How To Complain: The ESSENTIAL Consumer Guide to Getting REFUNDS, Redress and RESULTS!

Institute of Customer Service video on the results:

 

Supermarkets: The good, the bad and the ugly

Supermarkets, love them or hate them, most of us use them. Most of us have opinions about them all too. I surveyed the public and found these top five hates of supermarkets:

  1. Queueing
  2. Rude staff particularly those talking to colleagues when they should be paying attention to the customer
  3. Companies not accepting responsibility – ‘we are sorry, how can we put this right’ not lame excuses or blaming customer
  4. Staff who don’t know what they sell or how things work
  5. Change dumped into your hands with screwed up notes and receipt to follow

There are no surprises here. People just want good service and all these issues relate to the ethos of the company and how well the staff are trained. Interestingly, all the issues that people rate the highest are related to service, not quality, products or prices.

So do prices and quality of food feature when we look at specific supermarkets? Here’s what the public thought, in summary:

Supermarket The best thing The worst thing
Asda Prices Customer service including the desk not being open when the store is
Waitrose Quality of food and range that you can’t get in other supermarkets Overpriced items that you can buy much more cheaper in other supermarkets
Sainsbury’s Quality of food Cost and the Nectar scheme
Morrisons Quality of food Overpriced and shelves often empty of offers
Tesco Clubcard Variable quality on food products
Aldi Value for money Disorganisation in clogging up aisles and not enough staff on checkouts
Lidl Good fruit and veg Having to watch “best before” dates as products may often be past these


Supermarket responses

Supermarkets were given the opportunity to respond to these findings. Here are the supermarket responses:

An Asda spokesperson said: “Our customers are at the heart of everything we do and listening to their feedback is what drives us on to do better every day. We’re grateful for this feedback and will continue to work hard to deliver even better prices, quality and service for our customers.”

A Waitrose spokesperson said: “We work to offer consistently good value, which we firmly believe is a balance between provenance, quality and price.”

Sainsbury’s did not provide any comment

Morrisons did not provide any comment

A Tesco spokesperson said: “Clubcard is a great way for us to say thank you to our customers for choosing to shop with us, and we know it’s something they really value. It remains one of the biggest reasons why people switch to shop at Tesco.”

An Aldi spokesperson said: “Our customers regularly tell us that they shop with Aldi for everyday low prices and an enjoyable shopping experience. Our efficient business model means our checkouts are 40% quicker than other supermarkets, which reduces queues and requires fewer staff, saving our customers both time and money.”

A Lidl spokesperson said: “We are proud to have unique measures in place to help reduce food waste in the home. This includes choosing not to print a ‘best before date’ on many of our fruit and vegetable items, instead opting to print a code showing the date that the product was packaged. By not having a ‘best before date’ on certain products, it allows the individual customer to assess the fruit or vegetable product by sight and feel, judging for themselves if it is to their liking.”

In Summary
For 6 out of 7 supermarkets price and quality was the best thing about individual supermarkets. For 4 out of 7 supermarkets, price and/or variable quality of products was an issue and for 3 out of 7 it was the quality of service.

Rewards are clearly becoming more important to customers. Tesco leads the way in this area with its Clubcard, offering the most points per pound and variety of how to spend them. In comparison Sainsbury’s reduced their points value on Nectar in April last year, with fewer choices to spend them on. This clearly hasn’t gone unnoticed by customers, given that is cited as the best thing about Tesco and the worst about Sainsbury’s.

Consumers are flocking to the discounters, which do not offer the same range as other supermarkets, so people will not completely stop using larger ones and discounters may need to look at more expansion of their product ranges. Supermarkets need to offer something over and above price. Price wars will have to end eventually and for supermarkets at the cheaper end of the market service is clearly an issue.

Marcus Williamson – editor of the website CEOemail.com which provides contact details for CEOs – says “The number of people seeking contact details for the CEOs of supermarkets is still alarmingly high. This suggests problems with customer services which could be resolved by better training and by empowering staff to make a difference.”

It’s clear that prices and quality form an important part of why people shop at a certain store but  it doesn’t stop them complaining about service nor does it stop people shopping around once prices settle down across the sector. The rise of collect and delivery services will need to also rise to the challenge of providing good customer service.

Shopping habits are changing and service will have to improve dramatically if supermarkets are to retain existing customers and gain new customers.

 

And if you have an issue with a supermarket or any other store and want redress, see Top 20 Tips on How to Complain and GET THE BOOK! How To Complain: The ESSENTIAL Consumer Guide to Getting REFUNDS, Redress and RESULTS! 

Latest Asda figures show weaknesses in sales and customer services

Poor results demonstrate yet again that supermarkets must provide better service or risk losing more business

 Asda’s latest quarterly figures are out, showing a 5.8% fall in sales at established stores in the 13 weeks to the 1st January. Morrisons, Sainsbury’s and Tesco supermarkets, by comparison, all showed better than expected financial figures for Christmas trading, and discounters Lidl and Aldi taking on a substantial share of the sales (nearly one million more customers than last year). What is next for the supermarkets?

Helen Dewdney, The Complaining Cow – consumer blogger and author of How to Complain: The Essential Consumer Guide to Getting Refunds, Redress and Results! – says that as customers shopping habits are changing. As we become more savvy about discounts, service, consumer rights and comparison websites, supermarkets will have to up their game. “Customers don’t have trust in supermarkets and this needs to be worked on”, she advises.

Pricing – Consumers want consistent pricing. It even led to the Which? super complaint. The consumer’s voice is getting stronger and supermarkets will have to start listening. If one supermarket shows a lead, then they will win over many a customer so widespread is the complaint.

2)   Something more? – Supermarkets need to offer something over and above price. Price wars will have to end eventually. Rewards etc., will become more important as will service. Tesco leads the way in the clubcard points offering the most per pound and variety of how to spend them. In comparison Sainsbury’s reduced their points value in April last year with fewer choices to spend them on.

3)  Price matching – most customers don’t know how it all works, who matches what and what the rules are. Did you know that you had to have 10 branded items in the Tesco brand match scheme before it comes it comes into play?  Fair play to Tesco for taking it off at the till but its rules are not completely transparent. Consumers want to know that they are getting value for money and price matching is only one way of showing this.

4)    Listening – Supermarket CEOs will have to listen to customers more. For example, Mike Coupe at Sainsbury’s shows signs of following Clarke’s leadership and downfall at Tesco. Last year when Sainsbury’s announced the decrease in nectar points per pound it said it would be making better and bigger offers, with more included in their double-up voucher scheme at Christmas. In reality the double up points scheme was limited to £20 per department with confusion around Christmas gifts and food. £20 limit on toys for a family of 4 isn’t very helpful either! It happened again in 2015. In contrast in 2014 Tesco simplified the doubling-up process so customers could spend across departments with no limit.

5)    Discounters – Consumers are flocking to the discounters, which do not offer the same range as other supermarkets, so people will not completely stop using larger ones and discounters may need to look at more expansion of stock.

6)    Savings – People are looking to save time as well as money and supermarkets will need to look at ways to make it easier and quicker for shoppers to use their stores. Tesco recently changed their minimum spend for click and collect from £20 – £40 but Sainsbury’s has, so far, kept at £20 and Asda’s is free. It remains to be seen if the discounters will provide click and collect and deliveries which would bring more competition to the table and whether Asda will bring its collections in line with others.

7)  Waste – Consumers are becoming more aware of waste and how supermarkets treat suppliers. The BBC documentary War on Waste showed a farmer destroying crops it said Morrisons would not accept plus cancelled orders etc. Dewdney’s research of the issue[1] found that actually some supermarkets are doing really well in reducing waste. She also uncovered the other side of the story from Morrisons regarding a number of issues which was not shown. Supermarkets need to do more in informing consumers of what they are doing or customers will come to their own conclusions.

8)    Advertising – Supermarkets should review their advertising campaigns. Sainsbury’s did well this year but Tesco’s campaign has brought much criticism, from sexism, to unrealistic and disbelief in characters. [2] Advertising on this scale doesn’t bring in the extra revenue to pay for it, so supermarkets need to win customers round in more engaging and innovative ways.

9)    Customer Service – Supermarkets will have to improve customer service. Marcus Williamson – editor of the website ceoemail.com – says that searches for the email addresses of supermarket CEOs are very high. Figures for the last quarter were:

Store         Percentage              Market share            Expected ranking              

Asda                    50.48%                           16.7%                  Tesco

Sainsbury           21.75%                            16.2%                  Asda

Tesco                  16.75%                             28.2%                 Sainsbury’s

Morrisons           5.75%                              10.7%                 Morrisons

ALDI                    2.74%                              5.6%                  Aldi

LIDL                     2.53%                             4.3%                  Lidl

Williamson cautions that Asda clearly needs to work on customer service and complaints policies and procedures.

Contact for media enquiries
Email:             helen@thecomplainingcow.co.uk
Website:         //www.thecomplainingcow.co.uk
Book:              How to Complain: the Essential Consumer Guide to Getting Refunds, Redress and Results! (ISBN: 978-0993070402)

CEO email website:  CEOemail.com

References
[1] Research available on request
[2] Tesco takes flak in the battle of the Christmas adverts http://ow.ly/YuqRk

 

 

 

How to provide great customer service (when things go wrong)

Macdonal Bath HotelTime I feel for a story of how customer service should be done? Occasionally I write up a story of good customer service. Not often but I do like to give credit where credit is due, such as the Dunelm story.  I always say that every company makes mistakes sometimes but it is how they deal with them that matters. That’s when the company is really given a chance to show how good their customer service is. My friend (remember The Clamer Cat?) and I attended a spa day last October at a Macdonald Hotel in Bath. I had booked the day with the leisure manager. I added another massage for my friend and I with no problems. On the day of the spa we were told that we could not have the treatment because it would be too much massage.

Peeved we were, peeved. But the manager was incredible. So professional (particularly given that it was her line manager who had booked the treatment and so one has to assume was 100% at fault for not taking advice from the spa team) and helpful. Before we went into one treatment we said that we would write to the manager of the hotel to complain about the issue but that we would also mention that the spa team were extremely good and helpful.

When we came out of the treatment we were offered a full spa day including treatments as we had booked plus a tea. (Can’t beat tea and cake!) Most importantly, the team could not have been more apologetic. Genuine apologies go a long way.

I was impressed. This was after all far above and beyond the legal duty of the hotel for not providing services with skill and care. So I wrote to the general manager of the hotel. never let it be said that I only complain and don’t give credit where credit is due! I wrote the following:

“I am writing to you because whilst it was quite clear that this was basic knowledge that the manager should have known, the therapists that spoke to us were extremely professional. They could not have done more to help and try and rearrange things. When the spa manager Wendy was informed she could not have been better. She was very apologetic whilst remaining very professional. My friend and I were really very impressed by her and her team, she clearly runs a very tight excellent ship.

I write the blog www.thecomplainingcow.co.uk and am author of How to Complain: The Essential Consumer Guide to Getting Refunds, Redress and Results! and you will see that I rarely compliment service and specialise in complaining effectively. So this praise comes very high indeed. I always say that companies make mistakes (although it has to be said that I’m not sure that the leisure manager knowing so little about the basics of the spa and not requesting staff to check the booking a rather sad state of affairs) it is how they deal with them that counts and Wendy and her team were superb. Most importantly we hadn’t started to really complain, (as I always do this in writing) just said how appalling it was that the leisure manager should make such a mistake and their attitude/manner did not change when it was made clear that I would be complaining.

When we came out of the last treatment Wendy gave us the free spa day and tea. Pre-empting the complaint that she knew we were  going to make meant that I am not writing to you about breach of contract (not providing services with reasonable skill and care) but to compliment your team at the spa.

Your hotel is not active on Twitter but I tweeted the chain about Wendy and I’m surprised they didn’t rt it! I will be writing a blog post soon about the service to show what should be done when a mistake is made. I rarely do posts like that so it will be a nice change! I will let you know when the post is published.

I trust that you will pass on our comments to the team.”

So there you go, a time when even I did not need to complain! 🙂

The loves and hates of the self service checkout

Back in April, Morrisons announced that it was to reintroduce 1,000 staffed Express Checkouts for quick personal service. So what does the anti social cow think of the self service tills and the move to offer more staffed tills?

Is it the right move by Morrisons, not so long ago the big push was for more self-service tills?
I think it probably is. Most people who talk to me about supermarkets hate self service tills.  They feel for people who would have a job if it wasn’t for the self service till and many of us loathe them because they don’t always work and you have to call someone over because it doesn’t accept a coupon or doesn’t recognise an apple or asks if you are over 18 when you are 83, which annoys us as well as slows down the experience defeating the object.  Then you have our children trying to scan things twice and there are those of us who would say that actually it should be “10 items or fewer” not “less” of course! I think it is about having the choice and a balance of types of checkouts though. In theory I should love the self service checkouts, in reality they annoy me because they go wrong and then I have to ask someone for help which annoys me more than being served by someone wha talks to me!

Are the big four supermarkets returning to focus on service now rather than price? Sainsbury’s and Tesco have both promoted the fact that they have put more people on the shop floor.
I think they have to don’t they? The latest Which? campaign on supermarkets pricing confusions shows that they are all as bad as each other in pricing. This means that if a consumer is not using the discounters then there has to be something over and above choosing a supermarket on price. I think, as I have said many time before, the supermarkets simply need to listen to customers more. As I discussed here I don’t think Sainsburys are doing that very well at the moment. Tesco is certainly better at listening under Dave Lewis than his predecessor but he couldn’t have been more ignorant in my opinion! But they still have a looooong way to go if they really want to turn around Tesco fortunes.

Will more checkouts or self services speed up shopping?
Depends wholly on how many other tills are open and how busy they are! So long as they react to how many shoppers are on the floor at one time and don’t stay stuck on this is how many tills we have open at this time. They need to be proactive and ensure that there are enough tills open at all times. There was once was a time when a supermarket had the “more than one person in front – we will open another lane.” Putting that in place might be more effective

When I was on Radio 5 discussing self service there were two presenters. One liked the self service because he didn’t have to speak to anyone but like me hated the things that went wrong. I said the supermarkets need to bring in lines specifically for chatty people and another for us anti social people. He loved the idea suggesting Gaffa tape for the assistants. At the risk of assistants taking offence this did amuse me.

What are your thoughts on the self service checkout and do you use them?