Let's get ready to grumble

UK shoppers are more likely to complain about poor service than their European peers. Have we been spoilt too long?

by Dave Waller
Last Updated: 06 Nov 2012

Shopping comparison site Kelkoo ran a survey of 11,000 adults across Europe, and found that us Brits are more forward in voicing our grievances than anyone else: apparently 96% of people in the UK would kick off if they received poor service in a shop. That’s 29% higher than the European average.

It seems most believed that problematic services simply wouldn’t improve if they didn’t pipe up. And there are several things that really get our goat: poor customer service, low quality products, rude staff and problems with deliveries being the prime culprits. Although that’s hardly a surprise – that list covers pretty much everything that can go wrong in a shop.

You wouldn’t necessarily expect the usually reserved British to top such a poll, ahead of more fiery nations like the Italians. And they were close behind, on 95%. The French were the least likely to complain, at 42%, which may come as a surprise - anyone who's suffered a visit to a Parisian bistro recently may suspect their lack of bite must be because they've developed an immunity to poor service (unless of course the service is so bad because they never complain).

British people also admitted they started to get irritated if they queued in a shop for longer than five minutes. Around half of us get impatient after just two minutes, which pretty much puts paid to the image of an entire nation maintaining a stiff upper lip in the face of queue-based adversity.

Still, there’s an upshot to this: if we moan enough it may cause services to improve. 20% of respondents said they’d air their grievances through review websites, while 14% would use social media. Indeed, with the prevalence of public forums like Twitter these days, it’s becoming harder for those delivering an unsatisfactory service to pass the buck, and they’re becoming ever-more accountable. The trouble is, this has come at a time when companies have less cash to do anything about it. You may have also noticed shops bearing the brunt of a more severe and deeply-rooted form of disgruntlement recently – when a store has to contend with potentially being burned down because people aren’t getting what they think they should, it’s hard to know where to place improving your queue management in the priority list.

'An Englishman, even if he is alone, forms an orderly queue of one', wrote the Hungarian emigre George Mikes. That may still be true, but these days he'll be moaning about it.

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