UK customer service is getting worse

Rather than insisting on rock-bottom prices, it turns out customers just want to be loved...

Last Updated: 25 Jan 2011

Lots of companies (in the supermarket sector, for instance) may currently be engaged in a brutal price war, but before they cut prices to the point where they start actually paying people to shop with them, perhaps they should ask their customers what they really want. A new survey looking into levels of customer service has found that rather than going for rock-bottom prices every time, customers prefer to feel they have paid for value. And just 5% define good value as ‘paying the lowest price’.

The survey, by Convergys, asked consumers about the level of customer service they have received over the past year. It isn’t great news: almost 80% say customer service is ‘the same or worse’ than it was last year. But at least consumers are getting more assertive – two-thirds say they would be perfectly comfortable complaining if they didn’t get the service they expected, while just under half say they would stop doing business with a company if they’re treated badly (though that seems a fairly low number to us – unless 51% of the country are secret masochists or believe they are somehow undeserving of decent service).

And it’s not just consumers who are worried: the survey also asked ‘customer service representatives’ how they feel about the situation, and less than 40% said they think it has improved. The rest reckon they just aren’t equipped to handle complaints.

We may still be coming out of a recession, but now is surely the time to be investing heavily in making sure your customers are satisfied – a job that’s harder than ever now that the ‘millenial’ age group (i.e. those born after 1980) expect to be able to use a combination of phones, the internet and social media to get in touch. And businesses need to be increasingly careful: 85% of customers say they ‘tell their friends’ if they’ve had a bad experience (both face-to-face and online). And sites like Twitter help them spread their discontent around the world at the speed of light.

What’s important to customers, Convergys reckons, is value: they want to know the companies value their time, their money, their custom and their individual preferences. Price, on the other hand, is less important. Of course, if you can get both right, that’s when your customers will be really impressed...

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