Bored and disinterested staff are working in high street shops and utilities companies, according to a new study among 2,000 consumers by the Institute of Customer Service.
And, the Institute claims UK businesses may be missing an opportunity to maximise revenues, as one in four consumers are willing to pay more for their goods and services – on average 5% more – for better service.
The research also reveals the extent to which ‘moments of truth’ – particularly good or bad customer service experiences – stick in the mind of consumers, driving them to spend and recommend, or the opposite.
The Institute measured engagement levels of customer-facing staff by asking consumers to rate service personnel on a range of relevant factors, from the passion, enthusiasm and boredom levels, to the knowledgeability, helpfulness, and sense of pride they display.
Retail and utilities fared worst, with enthusiasm (6.3) and passion for the job (6.2) rated poorly on a scale of one to 10.
When asked how bored employees seemed, consumers rated staff in high street retail as 5.7 and utilities companies as 5.1.
At the opposite end of the scale, perhaps surprisingly consumers rate banks highly in terms of staff engagement, finding their customer services professionals to be the most friendly (7.8), helpful (7.7) and enthusiastic (7.1).
One in four consumers (24%) would be prepared to pay more for an excellent service experience; on average 5% more, but ranging in some instances to as much as 10%.
Ultimately, consumers want the right balance between price and service, the study reveals. When asked to choose a point on a scale between those two factors, the largest proportion of consumers chose a middling 5 or 6.
Jo Causon, chief executive of the Institute of Customer Service, said: “In this difficult economic environment, service is the critical differentiator for businesses. To make the most of this, companies need to train and motive staff to go the extra mile, while tailoring their service based on a firm understanding of what customers actually want.
“Even in these cost-conscious times, consumers still want the right balance between price and service. Those companies that can encourage staff to create a positive buying experience are more likely to retain customers and reap the financial rewards.”