By Dan Palmer
UK consumers are reporting improved levels of customer service since the start of the financial crisis (22.9% up from 9.1% in 2008) and the number of people who think it is getting worse has more than halved (from 64% in 2008 to 29.1% today). This online survey of 2,047 UK Adults was carried out for BSI by Opinion Matters.
The findings come from new research conducted by BSI, the business standards company, which has just re-launched their customer service standard BS 8477, first published in 2007. Improvements over the last five years could be attributed to businesses using standards such as BS 8477 to help them to focus more clearly on their customer service offering. The newly revised standard captures best practice for establishing an effective customer service culture within an organization and for increasing customer satisfaction.
Despite the positive shift, the new survey shows that there is still more to do, as almost 1 in 3 respondents (29.1%) think customer service is getting worse and are choosing to switch provider. The top reasons most commonly cited for switching include:
• Uncompetitive price of service/product (42.5%)
• Poor service/product quality (40.6%)
• Bad attitude of employees (39.4%)
• Poor handling of complaints (33.1%)
Changing attitudes have had the most impact in the energy sector, with consumers nearly twice as likely to switch energy providers (9.5%) compared with banks (5.3%). Internet providers and supermarkets also performed poorly, losing around 8% and 6% respectively.
The growing influence of social digital media channels (i.e. Twitter and Facebook) and use of online technologies (forums and blogs) could have contributed to the improvement in customer service since 2007. The research found that 49.2% of Brits say online review sites such as TripAdvisor and Amazon influence their opinion when buying or choosing products or services, and almost 1 in 5 respondents had complained or commented about poor service using social media.
Many businesses have taken note of this consumer action and behaviour and are acting to protect their reputations and business profits. BS 8477 has been updated to reflect the importance of new technologies and social media – vital for communicating with customers.
Good customer service is a critical and essential element in customer retention. Although this research shows that customer service has improved greatly, businesses still have a long way to go in bolstering the loyalty of their customers. Businesses need to work smarter to stand out from the competition and to meet customer expectations. Standards such as BS 8477 can help them to get there.
About the author
Dan Palmer is Head of Market Development for Services at BSI.