OFT survey finds room for improvement in customer service

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Almost a quarter of customers do not believe they receive good service from businesses, according to a survey released today (19 March) by the Office of Fair Trading (OFT), which is urging consumers to look out for its ‘approved code’ logo.

While most people feel they do generally receive good service in their day to day lives, the bad news for companies with poor customer service is that others will hear about it:

82% – four out of five people – said their response to poor service would be to tell their friends and family never to use a business.

almost a third said they would write a negative review on the company’s website

with increasing use of social media, some consumers said they would ‘Tweet’ about company or set up a Facebook complaints group.

The survey also reveals the benefits to companies of good service – of the consumers who received good service, 85% say they would recommend that retailer to their friends and family, and one in three said that they would contact the business to thank them.

Charles Wallace, OFT head of codes, said: “Consumers clearly expect good standards of service and for many people it is an important part of the buying process.

“OFT Code approved businesses operate to a higher standard of service, and if a consumer needs to make a complaint, then they can be assured that it will be dealt with swiftly and effectively.”

Commenting on the OFT research, Neil Miller, head of customer relationship management at Accenture UK & Ireland said: “The OFT survey results sound a warning bell for many companies. Good service can be a real differentiator amongst consumers, and firms that understand and act on this are well positioned to grow their customer base. Some new initiatives such as online chat and self-service are proving particularly popular, showing that keeping abreast of new trends can aid the process of ensuring a favourable relationship with customers.”

Accenture recently conducted its own customer satisfaction research, which found new capabilities such as on-line chat (39% satisfied) and self service (28% satisfied) are starting to become important in terms of consumer acceptance and satisfaction.

The research also shows there is a widening gap between consumer expectations and the quality of the service they experience. Accenture said the numbers in the UK, as in other mature markets, are alarming:

Nearly one in three (29%) stated they have increased service quality expectations in the past year

But 58% state that their expectations are never or only sometimes met

More than two thirds (64%) of UK consumers have switched providers in at least one industry sector as a result of poor service in the same period

“Understanding the expectations your brand creates with consumers, and how to meet these expectations efficiently across service channels, is vital to capturing reward rather than defection from the customer. While in-person and phone channel satisfaction rank the highest in the UK, organisations should focus on their digital channel service capabilities, which are not yet impressing UK consumers,” said Miller.