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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 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.

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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

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


Business Complaining about customer service Latest News Press releases

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

The Institute of Customer Service show issues with resolving complaints

The ICS provides results of customer service survey

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.

Comment on the customer service results

Marcus Williamson, editor of the website, 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

Institute of Customer Service video on the results:

Customer satisfaction in the UK

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For  lots more help advice, information, tips, laws and template letters GET THE BOOK! How To Complain: The ESSENTIAL Consumer Guide to Getting REFUNDS, Redress and RESULTS!