Customer Service at All-time Low, Research Claims

Three-quarters of UK consumers believe customer service standards are at an all-time low and more than half have been driven to complain in the last year, research has found.

According to research by the Henley Business School, two-thirds of customers believe retailers, leisure providers and service firms in the UK are “arrogant, make no effort to understand their customers and fail to supply against customer demand”.

The survey of 200 customers and customer service professionals found that more than half of respondents felt businesses should be fined for consistently providing poor service.

The report’s authors noted that economic stress was contributing to customer dissatisfaction, but was not the main cause. Instead, they said, people are “simply demanding better quality” and widespread use of social media was making comparison between businesses easier and complaints about them more visible. People were also turning to independent online reviews to help with buying decisions, they said.

Customer service expert Derek Bishop of The Culture Consultancy agreed that standards had fallen in some areas as businesses cut costs to survive. “But our demands are also increasing at a very fast rate and some of that is driven by the very fast pace of life now,” he said. “We want things now and we want them right. The internet is also fuelling the ongoing increase in demand and pace of expectation.

“Small businesses have the pressure of having to run on small budgets,” he added. “But I would say listen to what your customers’ needs, wants and expectations are and then deliver on them. And don’t put everybody in the same bag ― a one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t work.”

Award-winning online retailer Sharon Lowe of The Pure Emporia disagreed that service standards had fallen. “There are many businesses offering great customer service,” she said. “But I do think customers are expecting more ― they’re looking for cheaper prices and they can look around and buy from someone else at the click of a button.

Commenting on what small businesses should offer by way of service, Lowe said: “Politeness ― you don’t always get that. And people are expecting discounts ― that will get them through the door, but it won’t necessarily keep them there.

“Also at Christmas people are so stressed that if you can take a small amount of that away from them, they’re genuinely quite grateful,” she added. “It’s just about making life easier for customers.”

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