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Customer satisfaction levels “lowest in 5 years”


Findings from the annual 2020 UK Customer Satisfaction Index reveals that levels continue to drop.   

24th Jan 2020
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The Institute of Customer Service has revealed the findings of its latest UK Customer Satisfaction Index (UKCSI), with levels dropping for a fifth year running.     

The overall Index score is 76.9, 0.8 points lower than last year’s score and its lowest point since July 2015.

The Index asks customers to rate 259 of the UK’s leading brands based on a series of satisfaction measures. John Lewis was the top-ranking brand, followed by First Direct and Next. 28% of the organisations fell by at least 2 points in the index compared with last year.

The results mirror similar issues being faced in the US, with Forrester’s 2019 US Customer Experience Index highlighting a worrying trend of ‘stagnant’ customer satisfaction levels among leading brands in the States.

Institute of Customer Service chief executive, Jo Causon, describes the dip as “disappointing” but highlights that there are numerous good news stories within the findings to act as a blueprint for those brands struggling with meeting their customer expectations.

“I’m heartened by the consistent excellence of some organisations and the robust evidence that better customer service improves relationships, productivity and performance.

“I believe now is the time to refocus, innovate and drive up service standards in order to reach and retain customers who demand greater openness, transparency and sustainable products and services.”   

Two success stories were IKEA and Superdrug, which both saw marked increases in their Index score launching the brands into the UKCSI’s top 10 from 2019 positions of 114 and 101, respectively.  

UK CSI 2020
UKCSI: Jan '08 - Jan '20 (source: Institute of Customer Service)

Link between satisfaction and sales

Whilst previous UKCSI results have shown links between leading brands and their sales performance, this year’s Index paints a less clear picture.   

John Lewis rose by one place in the 2020 UKCSI to top the list, despite experiencing a dip in sales of 2% over 2019 that culminated in the firm’s managing director quitting.  

Debenhams was ranked in the top ten despite recent high-profile issues, whilst contrastingly, Lidl’s sales rose by 9.2% despite “being the lowest scoring food retailer for customer satisfaction”.

However the UKCSI does clearly highlight that the two highest performers in the groceries sector – Aldi and Ocado – also saw year on year sales growth of 6.3% and 12.7% respectively.   

Causon states in her summary of this year’s findings that there were a myriad of environmental factors leading to the sales/satisfaction lines being blurred, alongside the reason for satisfaction levels continuing to dip.

“As customers, we’ve become more diverse, demanding and polarised in our attitudes. Online and mobile technologies have transformed the ways in which we consume services and interact with organisations.

“Many well-known brands have disappeared. New players have intensified competition and, in some cases, fundamentally challenged existing business models. Whilst the political direction of the UK has become clearer, the economic outlook is filled with uncertainty and risk.”

Despite this, Causon remains adamant that the most consistently successful brands – such as Amazon, Nationwide and First Direct, share commonalities that other brands should seek to replicate:

“They design experiences around their customers’ needs; they demonstrate high ethical standards in their relationships with customers, employees, partners and suppliers; they combine technology and people to create experiences that work and feel personal. They are authentic and use customer service to build understanding and better relationships. They are clear about their purpose, relevance and the impact they create.”

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