Young consumers 'expect better service'

By Kevin Peachey
Personal finance reporter

Image source, Thinkstock

Customer satisfaction is rising but experts say shoppers are having to work too hard to get complaints resolved.

A study by the Institute of Customer Service found that while businesses were improving, a half of consumers with problems had to complain more than twice to get them sorted out.

The Institute also warned that empathy might be lacking when people raised problems through web chat services.

Campaigners said staff training should be improved to solve customer gripes.

'Young not carefree'

The Institute conducts a study twice a year charting customer service by drawing, in part, on the experiences of 10,000 people.

It said that businesses had improved in the last 12 months, and the gap between the best and worst performers had narrowed.

It also challenged the perception that "grumpy old men" are the most likely to complain.

Consumers aged 65 and over were the most "satisfied" with businesses, with those aged 25 to 34 the least happy.

For the second year running, Amazon topped the satisfaction poll, but the Institute said that excellent customer service was now demanded by consumers across all sectors.

"The evidence suggests that customers still feel that they are spending too much time and effort dealing with businesses. To turn this around a greater focus should be given to making things easier and less cumbersome for customers," said Jo Causon, the Institute's chief executive.

"Engagement through digital methods such as email, text, apps and web chat functions have all increased in the last year, and these are the channels through which it is most difficult for customer service staff to show empathy.

"Organisations therefore need to make sure that their staff are highly engaged and highly skilled, as every customer interaction - regardless of the channel it is on - counts towards business performance."

Getting answers

Consumer campaigners said they were not surprised by the findings and challenged businesses to give more responsibility to staff to deal with problems.

Marcus Williamson, editor of the website, said: "We are seeing customers not getting the answers they want from customer service because those staff are not well trained or because they are not empowered to make a difference to the customer's experience."

Helen Dewdney, author of How to Complain: The Essential Consumer Guide to Getting Refunds, Redress and Results! called on consumers to be aware of their rights.

"People need to know and quote appropriate legislation, as under the Consumer Rights Act customers are entitled to services carried out with reasonable skill and care, goods that are as described, are fit for purpose, are of satisfactory quality and [that are] durable."

Tips for getting a complaint dealt with

  • Act quickly. You have 30 days from purchase to claim a refund, after this time you may be offered a repair or replacement
  • In the first instance write to the customer services department politely and objectively, so that you have a written record as evidence. Then escalate to the chief executive if you are not happy with the response
  • Quote the relevant laws
  • Say what you want to happen - refund, explanation, or apology
  • Say what you will do if not satisfied with the response, such as going to the relevant ombudsman or small claims court

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