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Brands struggling to keep pace with new customer satisfaction requirements

16th Jan 2015
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The Institute of Customer Service (ICS) has announced its latest UK Customer Satisfaction Index (UKCSI) results for 2014, with the findings highlighting a continuing decline in satisfaction levels, which are at their lowest since 2010 across the 200 organisations the index assesses.  

The ICS allude to the “rapidly changing customer environment” as a major factor in the ongoing decline, with increasing expectations said to be leaving many major brands struggling to keep pace with change.

However, while overall levels are in decline, a number of organisational and industry success stories exist, including large increases in satisfaction for brands including Northern Ireland Electricity, Santander, Nationwide, Royal Mail and 3, and steady improvements for four of the UK’s ‘big six’ energy providers, which will be a relief to many individuals in the utilities sector.

Customer perception of utility providers was close to rock-bottom at certain points during 2014, with record complaint levels and the big six all being ranked as having some of the worst customer service records among big businesses across the country.

Scottish Power has even been warned by governmental energy regulator, Ofgem that it must dramatically improve its customer service or risk having its sales operations suspended – the third move of its type in the last 12 months.

However, with Southern Water, Yorkshire Water and United Utilities showing the largest improvement among the utility providers in the UKCSI and some of the big six also bucking the trend in terms of customer satisfaction, the sector is forecast to be in the process of a group charm offensive as it attempts to rebuild consumer trust.      

Jo Causon, CEO for the ICS told in November that the current UKCSI results simply served to highlight those companies that had a grasp of what being customer-centric truly meant:

“Yes, customers are less happy with service compared with a year ago, but what’s interesting is that there are winners and losers within this broad statement. Customer expectations are increasing, so organisations are now going forwards or backwards in terms of how they react to the challenge.

“The positive note is, there are organisations that are bucking the downward trend, across all sectors. The organisations that are doing customer satisfaction well understand the importance at board level and focus on it at board level. They integrate their customer service strategy both horizontally and vertically inside their organisations. They measure the right things, they train and develop staff and they’re constantly looking externally to see how they can improve and benchmark themselves outside their own industry sectors.

“We’re finding that the people who are least satisfied with their customer service is young people, but what’s interesting in connection to that trend is that young people are far more likely to tell people when they’ve had a good experience with a brand.”

Customers stated that ‘speed and responsiveness’, ‘complaints handling’ and ‘staff behaviour’ have deteriorated most in the last two years and only two of the 28 metrics measured in the UKCSI showed improvements since January 2013 - ‘outcome of the complaint’ and ‘on-time delivery’.

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