Bad news travels fast - but customers more likely to walk than talk

19th Feb 2010

The average UK consumer is three times more likely to tell family and friends about a bad customer service experience than a good one, but if such a situation occurred, the majority would simply take their business elsewhere.

According to a poll undertaken among 2,392 shoppers last autumn by retail membership body the Consumer Forum, a massive 97.7% of respondents intimated that they would go elsewhere if they felt mistreated. On the other hand, a huge 98.4% indicated that good customer service would increase their brand loyalty.

While 80% of those questioned said that they routinely told friends, family and associates about their retail experiences, just over a quarter stated that they were more likely to talk about the bad times than the good (8.4%).

The biggest single bugbear was rude staff (31.7% of respondents), but nearly two thirds said that they most appreciated a personal response to any issues that they had. Speed of response was also cited as important by a further 44.3% of shoppers.

Simon Calver, a founder member of the Consumer Forum and chief executive of, said: "These results provide a fascinating insight into what makes UK consumers want to spend and what makes them want to scream. Most significantly, these findings consolidate the link between great customer service and business productivity."

The report also indicated that just over half of respondents (57.6%) felt that they received the best customer service in face-to-face situations, while the worst experiences occurred over the telephone. Only 15.5% of people said that this channel was their favourite.

But shoppers were divided over their online experiences. While just under half said that things had improved since ecommerce first started, just over that number believed that quality had dropped. Surprisingly then, nearly a third rated online customer service as offering the best experience.

The most popular online retailers, meanwhile, were Amazon and Ebay, while the best-liked high street brands were John Lewis and Marks & Spencer.

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