Has UK customer service turned a corner?
In today’s fast changing world consumer expectations are continually rising. This means that delivering the right levels of customer satisfaction is a journey not a destination. Companies have to keep investing in improving the service and experience they offer if consumers are to remain satisfied.
It seems that these investments are beginning to pay off. The latest Institute of Customer Service Customer Satisfaction Index (UKCSI) has shown its first substantial improvement for two years, with a rise of 0.8 points to 77 out of 100. The six monthly study, which is based on the views of 10,000 customers, has improved by 1 point since January 2015 but is still well below the January 2013 peak of 78.2.
The Index does show marked differences between regions, companies and industries. Wales has the happiest customers, scoring 78.6, while those in the South West are most dissatisfied. Theutility industry has the fastest improving scores when it comes to customer satisfaction, while banks and building societies dropped by 0.4 points. Amazon topped the Index, while erstwhile leader John Lewis, which had been in the top 3 for the past six reports, fell to sixth place in an extremely tight top 10.
The personal touch in customer service
Going beyond the figures, the UKCSI investigated how customer priorities are changing, based on 34 criteria. According to respondents, the top factors that affect the customer experience are:
- Competence of staff (in person)
- Staff fulfilling promises
- Competence of staff (on the phone)
- Helpfulness of staff
- Complaint handling
What is striking is that all of these factors revolve around people – meaning that companies need to make sure all customer-facing staff have the skills, training and technology to deliver the service that consumers demand. Understanding customers and then being able to provide a clear and consistent response, sounds easy. However, given the complexity of many businesses, the number of products they sell, and the sheer volume of contacts from consumers across multiple channels, it can actually be extremely hard.
This is further demonstrated by the poor scores given by consumers for multichannel performance. Those that contacted a company using more than two channels during the same interaction were much more likely to be unhappy with the service they received, showing the need to join up channels and departments and to work together to deliver customer service.
How a customer hub can help
One way to increase multichannel satisfaction and to reduce complexity is to bring together skills from across the business in a cross-functional team, focused on the customer. This customer hub approach fosters team work, a positive culture and consequently faster, higher performance that benefit customers and the overall business. It underpins the scalable one-to-one service that customers are looking for and ensures that they receive real-time responses, improving the experience and consequently revenues.
Eptica will be showing how companies can improve the customer experience, through technology that both empowers staff and increases efficiency, at the forthcoming ICS Annual Conference. To be held at the Hilton Park Lane on March 1st, the event provides the biggest forum for customer service thought leadership and best practice in the UK. If you are attending, do come and visit us on stand 2.