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Are you satisfied?  Yes, no or maybe?

How satisfied with customer service are you?

The Institute of Customer Service (ICS) published its bi-annual UK Customer Satisfaction Index (UKCSI) report today, 7 July 2021. It showed that the number of complaints  about poor service in the last six months was at its highest level since 2009! The Institute surveyed 10,000 people.

The report said that the sectors with the biggest issues were transport, local public services – such as GP surgeries, councils and police services, and telecommunications. A quarter of those asked said that some organisations had used COVID as an excuse for poor service.

Long COVID in customer service?

The public is getting tired of companies using COVID as a reason for poor service. There is no excuse for it now. Companies have had long enough to get their act together and iron out any problems with working from home, for example.

The report covered the average customer satisfaction for experiences based on survey fieldwork collected between 14 September and 12 October 2020 and between 8 March and 6 April 2021. This was after the return of strict lockdown measures in large parts of the UK from 31 December 2020 and before the re-opening of non-essential retail on 12 April 2021.

The ICS gave these headlines:

  • The July 2021 UK Customer Satisfaction Index (UKCSI) is 77.4 (out of 100), 0.4 points higher than in July 2020
  • 14.9% of customers experienced a problem with an organisation, the highest rate since 2009. But satisfaction with complaint handling it at its highest ever level
  • For the first time, 50% of the customer experiences recorded in the UKCSI were digital
  • The Public Services (National), Retail (Non-food) and Telecommunications and Media sectors have each improved by at least 1 point but Public Services (Local) has declined by more than 1 point
  • 272 organisations or organisation types received a UKCSI score.
    first direct, John Lewis and amazon.co.uk are the highest rated organisations”

The devil is in the detail

However, companies of all sizes would do well to read the report and note some of the details. The report includes details of another survey which ran alongside the UKCSI. This survey showed the results of asking over 1,000 customers about the changes in quality of service they had experienced during the latest phase of the pandemic:

“49% of customers who experienced a new idea or improvement said they were more likely to buy from that organisation in future”

This demonstrates yet again how important customer service is in business.

Would you get 49% of customers coming back from your marketing budget at a much greater cost than improving customer service and not fobbing people off?! No, of course not. Yet businesses still don’t invest in customer service, choosing instead to undervalue the merit of doing the right thing by their customers.

Voting with their feet

Sectors such as tourism and transport have apparently seen the biggest improvement between autumn 2020 and spring 2021. However, less tourism and less transport would logically see fewer complaints as fewer people travelled! In addition, a number of companies were delaying refunds that did eventually pay up by the spring 2021.

Such research on the statistics should be approached with some caution as to how much they are skewed by an increase in online sales and reduction in travel and other sectors. What is clear, is that customer service needs to be improved across the board. As we hopefully come out of this pandemic, consumers are becoming less tolerant of poor service and will vote with their feet.

Good service means loyal customers

Certainly companies have a long way to go in improving service quality. It came as no surprise to see telecoms at the bottom of the table for customer service. Regardless of the research or report, the telecoms sector always comes out badly. Is it complacency, ignorance, arrogance or a combination of all three? All companies, but especially telecoms need to understand that investing in customer service has clear benefits. With it costing at least 5 times as much to gain a new customer as to retain one, companies of all sizes would be wise to pay more attention to existing customers than attracting new ones.

The Complaining Cow – free support for businesses

It takes 5 times as much to gain a new customer to retain one. So work on turning your customers into superfans who do much of the heavy lifting for you!

Join the Facebook Group Increase Sales through Customer Service: Compassion, Care and  Integrity  A private group where you can give and get support, advice and share good practice on how to improve customer service.

Free download Customer Service 5 ways to get rave reviews & referrals a few tweaks to your customer service can help you reduce the risk to your company’s reputation, finances and impact on customers and increase sales.

Customer Service how to turn customers into superfans raving about your products/services

The Complaining Cow Services

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To see how The Complaining Cow can help you improve your customer service see Services.

 

 

Further information for consumers

All you need to know about complaining to telecom providers

All you need to know to make a complaint about energy

Cover of How to Complain updated 2019 large cow logo

 

For more help, advice, tips, information and templates buy  How to Complain: The Essential Consumer Guide to Getting Refunds, Redress and Results!

 

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Business

Think before pressing “send” in reply to a customer complaint

Vulnerable people are frequently left without a resolution to a complaint. They can find it difficult to know how to complain, what route to take, what language to use, and if they don’t get a satisfactory response they will give up more quickly.

This can be a huge problem for companies, whether they realise it or not. We all know that it can cost at least 5 times more to gain a new customer than to retain an existing one. However, how your teams or you handle a complaint, particularly with vulnerable customers, could have unintended consequences. What if, unbeknown to you, the customer has just had a bereavement, has mental health issues, is disabled or is elderly or is vulnerable in a host of other ways? The impact could be more than just you losing a customer.

man sitting on sofa head in closed hands thinking

In the current climate anyone could become vulnerable. Hundreds of thousands of people have lost their jobs or are freelancers currently unable to work. Many thousands have developed mental health issues or have suffered a bereavement. This can make them vulnerable.

 

A year ago if you handled a complaint badly it may have just frustrated someone who was able to keep going until it was resolved. For example, if you sent someone from pillar to post (a top common frustration for customers) they may just have got cross and kept going until the matter was resolved. Now, imagine if that person has depression and anxiety difficulties. It takes one of your complaints to a whole new level, doesn’t it? That person is not in a good place and is having to spend more time on something that affects them negatively could have very serious consequences.

Now it is more likely than ever that you may be writing to someone who is vulnerable. 1 in 4 people is thought to have a mental health problem in their lifetime, so think about how this has increased since the pandemic. Add that to the increased number of people who are bereaved and/or suffering with their physical health on top of those already vulnerable.

Write a list of the ways in which someone could be vulnerable.

hand writing in notepad in front of laptopWhen you receive a letter/email, respond as normal. Randomly point to a vulnerability on the list. Now, read through your response and ask yourself some questions about how the recipient may be impacted by each paragraph.

 

With the next letter/email received, stop and think before you reply. Imagine that person is vulnerable, and choose the way in which they are.  Then write and look through again and ask yourself (or colleagues) how the recipient may be impacted by every paragraph.

Trying out a mixture of these methods – and encouraging your teams to do this alongside other activities – will change how you think and respond to complaints over time.

The Complaining Cow – free support for businesses

It takes 5 times as much to gain a new customer to retain one. So work on turning your customers into superfans who do much of the heavy lifting for you!

Join the Facebook Group Increase Sales through Customer Service: Compassion, Care and  Integrity  A private group where you can give and get support, advice and share good practice on how to improve customer service.

Free download Customer Service 5 ways to get rave reviews & referrals a few tweaks to your customer service can help you reduce the risk to your company’s reputation, finances and impact on customers and increase sales.

Customer Service how to turn customers into superfans raving about your products/services

The Complaining Cow Services

To see how The Complaining Cow can help you improve your customer service see Services.