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New study reveals growing UK 'complaints culture'

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10th Jan 2013
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Despite facing less problems buying goods than they did five years ago, consumers are becoming increasingly frustrated with the level of service received.

According to new research from the Institute of Customer Service (ICS), this is fuelling a ‘complaints culture’ within the UK.

The report, Handle with Care, which is based on the findings of over 3000 consumer responses from the UK Customer Satisfaction Index (UKCSI), found that overall the number of problems faced when buying goods and services has fallen from 17% in January 2008 to 11.7% in July 2012.

But despite customers being more satisfied with products and services than they used to, the number of consumers making a complaint over the same period rose 4% to reach 76% in 2012, the report revealed. 

The figures showed that people-related issues such as staff attitude and competence caused the majority (62%) of problems eliciting a complaint whilst the quality or reliability of goods and services accounted for just a third (34%) of complaints.

In terms of the most frustrating or annoying service problems, staff attitude received the most votes with 8.5 out of 10, followed by staff competence (8.4) and organisations not keeping promises (8.8). 

Local public services were shown to be the worst offenders for staff attitude and competence (44% attitude/36% competence), followed by the leisure industry (36% attitude/37% competence) and national public services (37% attitude and competence).

Jo Causon, chief executive of the ICS, said: “Our research suggests that customers are most satisfied when complaints are dealt with immediately. As a result, organisations need to ensure that all customer contacts are handled consistently well, and that customers are not passed from pillar to post.”

But the state of customer service is even gloomier than it appears, warned the ICS. Nearly a quarter of customers (24%) account for ‘silent sufferers’ – those that have experienced a problem but chose not to make a complaint. According to the report, these consumers’ main reason for declining to complain is that they think it will make no difference (51%).

Causon added: “Our research shows that customers who have a bad experience are much more likely to tell others, and to tell more people, than customers who have had a good experience. This means that it’s essential to try to prevent complaints occurring and, when they do occur, they need to be dealt with as quickly as possible and followed up to make sure customers feel the issue has been resolved.”

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