UK trumps US in customer satisfaction stakes

A survey suggests Brits think our customer service is the best in the world. Erm, really?

by
Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

Britain has never exactly been renowned for its enthusiastic approach to customer service, as anyone who’s been served by a bored shop assistant on Saturday morning will testify – particularly in comparison to the US. But in a recent survey of 25,000 people (admittedly all in the UK), 46% said the UK had the best customer service in the world – while a relatively paltry 25% plumped for the US. Might surprise a few American tourists, we suspect….

The UK Customer Satisfaction Index (UKCSI), which canvassed the opinions of 25,000 people about 13 industry sectors, found that John Lewis is the best organisation in the world for keeping its customers happy. But no fewer than 37 companies scored above the ‘world-class benchmark’ of 80%, including the fire and ambulance services, Waitrose, M&S, Mazda and the RAC. Remarkably, even the banking sector performed well, which seems slightly odd given that nobody’s supposed to like banks these days.

What’s less surprising is that utilities were the poorest performing sector. Massive price hikes, despite soaring profit margins, have left the British populace with a rather bitter taste in its mouth. And its service continues to leave a lot to be desired: an Ofgem poll earlier this week suggested that fewer than one in four customers were satisfied with the service they received when registering a complaint with their supplier. That said, even the utilities sector managed to clock up an overall UKCSI score of 66% – which suggests British customers have fairly low expectations.

Overall, though, the news was pretty positive: the UK managed to record an average rating of 74% in the UKCSI, a 2% improvement on the year before. So perhaps our scepticism about British customer service is just out-of-date – perhaps the economic downturn has forced UK industry to take stock of the importance of customer service, and really raise their game as a result?

However, it’s clear that some companies still have a long way to go. Another survey out this week, by OnePoll.com, found that telecoms firm BT had the UK’s worst customer service – receiving nearly twice as many votes as second placed British Gas for its complaint-handling. Given all the other problems BT is having at the moment – it recorded a pre-tax loss of £134m last year, against profits of £2bn the previous year – chief exec Ian Livingston will probably be thinking that it never rains but it pours...


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