Non-food retail delivers the highest levels of customer satisfaction in the UK, Institute of Customer Service reports

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In the week that a number of large retailers update the city and the British Retail Consortium releases its latest figures, UK retailers continue to outperform rival sectors to take the top spot in the UK Customer Satisfaction Index. But, a closer look at the numbers reveals the sector has not been spared from the decline that was first identified in 2013.

The average score for the retail sector declined by 0.9 points, in line with the all-sector fall of 0.8, while only four retail organisations reported an improvement in customer satisfaction since last year and ten reported falls of more than one point.

John Lewis (87.7) and Amazon (87.6) were the best performing retail organisations and topped the index of all sectors. Newcomer to the index, Specsavers (84.4) and Next (84.0) made up the top four, with Next registering an impressive score increase of 1.8 points.

John Lewis was also the most trusted organisation with a score of 8.9 (out of 10), demonstrating the clear link between customer satisfaction and trust.

Although a drop has been recorded, retail (non-food) does have a lead over other sectors (5.9 points higher than the all-sector average) scoring higher than average across all of the 28 metrics used in the survey and performing best at problem solving and timeliness .

More than half (59%) of people questioned want a balance of price and service from retailers, as opposed to simply looking for the cheapest deal. More than a quarter (27%) would be prepared to pay a premium for the highest levels of customer service, whilst 14% are motivated primarily by low pricing.

The use of social media as a means to complain continues to grow, nearly doubling from 2.6 to 5.1% of interactions with organisations to report a problem. Email maintains its position as the most frequent complaints channel used by retail non-food customers (46%).

Jo Causon, CEO of the Institute of Customer Service comments:

“Retailers have retained their position ahead of other sectors included in the UKCSI demonstrating that customers and other sectors still regard the industry as the standard bearer for good customer service.

However, the latest results show there is no room for complacency; customer needs are changing rapidly alongside their expectations and available choices. With a clear link between good customer service and business performance there could be serious consequences of ignoring the consistent decline in customer satisfaction.”

Causon said: “As the economy begins to recover it is tempting for organisations to focus on short term objectives. A concerted effort must be is made to deliver consistent levels of service in order to provide clear differentiation in a competitive sector. Leaders of retail organisations must therefore make an effort to regain the initiative, maintain focus and champion customer service and in turn, help to ensure the UK remains a leader in service.”

The UKCSI, carried out by the Institute of Customer Service, includes over 40,000 responses from more than 9,000 customers. During these interviews customers gave insight into 197 of the UK’s leading brands across 13 different sectors. Of these, Retail (non-food) ranked in 1st place, and experienced a drop of 0.9 points between January and July 2014. The Retail non-food sector includes over 3,000 customer responses.