Ever wondered what would happen if anyone actually bothered to check out those incessant claims everyone makes that ‘customer service standards are constantly improving’?

Well, someone (working with a leading business school) has now bothered to check, and surprise! the results include phrases like “all time low” and “no loyalty” and “no effort to understand customers”.

The video below covers a creditable attempt at making sense of some fairly devastating findings.

If you’ve “bounced off” that video because you’ve found it way too full of management-speak, my advice for anyone who’s really interested in the subject is to first watch the three videos below and then go straight back and watch the first one.

First is veteran social media advocate Chris Pirillo, offering some thoughts about the online service versus offline service conundrum:

This clip on trends in CRM highlights the impact of mobile:


This one gives quite a different perspective on the issues, from a renowned futurologist:

The details of the first video can be found in a press release covering the research:

Research by Henley Business School and CDC Software reveals current customer service levels fail to meet customer expectations

As retailers enter the busiest shopping month of the year, research by Henley Business School and CDC Software reveals that UK retailers, leisure businesses and service providers are failing to meet customer service expectations.

Over 200 people were interviewed including customers and customer service professionals from all sectors including retail, travel & leisure, banking, finance and automotive.

The summary research findings are as follows;

  • 75% of consumers believe customer service standards in the UK are at an all-time low
  • 62% feel no loyalty to retailers or service providers as a result of feeling under-valued as a customer
  • Over half have been driven to complain about a product or service in the last 12 months, most of these making a complaint for the first time
  • 67% believe retailers, leisure providers and service providers are arrogant, make no effort to understand their customers and as a result fail to supply against customer demand
  • As a direct result, 55% say this failure to tailor stock and services loses sales
  • 80% of customers revealed that they would like immediate reassurance and evidence that a complaint will be taken seriously and a satisfactory conclusion achieved
  • Over 50% of UK consumers think businesses should be fined for consistent poor service

However, it’s not all bad:

  • 69% of travellers and shoppers say self-service check-ins and check-outs improve the customer experience
  • 50% of consumers are happy with the customer service information provided on websites
  • Of the 80% of customers wanting to speak with a ‘human’, 60% are happy with the customer service received from a call centre and do not ask for face-to-face interaction

Research conclusion

The project: “The Future of CRM – a Market Study by CDC Software in association with Henley Business School”, combined the research with an expert panel debate which can be viewed at www.youtube.com/watch?v=zOEAhVakGL8.

The overall project was managed by customer complaint and feedback management solution provider, CDC Software and overseen and analysed by Professor Moira Clark, director of CRM at Henley Business School.

In conclusion, the research found that Britain’s consumers are increasingly dissatisfied with standards of customer service across the retail, leisure and service sectors. The on-going economic constraints facing consumers were found to be contributory in the rise of customer service complaints, but not the cause.

People are simply demanding better all-round quality.  Where at one time a faulty item might have been thrown away, or an alternative meal ordered if the quality was not good, customers will no longer effectively pay twice and are now demanding, not just their money back, but compensation too!

With the number of complaints rising consistently, and awareness of this being spread in the media and via social media channels, over 50% of consumers believe businesses that consistently provide poor service should be penalised.  The key reasons cited were: “there’s no excuse for poor service”; “customers should get what they are paying for”; “by listening to customers businesses should know what’s acceptable and what isn’t” and, “if more than one customer makes the same complaint the root cause should be established and changes made”.

However, the introduction of self-service supermarket checkouts and airport and train station check-ins has improved the customer experience for nearly 70% of people.  The research found that 92% of customers like to interface with humans on their own terms and 79% found it intrusive to be approached, making self-service the ideal customer solution!

When it comes to making a complaint, 80% of customers want to deal with a person and not a machine, whether in person or via a call centre.  60% of people are more than happy with the response they receive from a call centre, although the remaining 40% said they “feel anonymous” when calling a call centre and fear being passed from department to department.  They also dread being asked to repeat their details and complaint over and over again.

The research also found that customer loyalty has become a thing of the past for all but 17% of consumers.  Competition from online sources, independent customer reviews and more public complaints channels mean people use and trust independent reviews and user comments on social media channels when making a purchasing decision more than they do advertising.

It was also established that customer complaints now play a greater role in the purchasing process; poor customer service can be broadcast globally with a single Facebook status update and therefore the research revealed that it is vital for retailers, travel companies and service providers to have a strong social media element in their overall customer service strategies.

About the research project

The objective of the project, entitled “The Future of CRM – a Market Study by CDC Software in association with Henley Business School”, looked at common customer service practices in the UK and the public’s reaction to these.www.youtube.com/watch?v=zOEAhVakGL8

The findings of the research were presented to a panel of industry customer service practitioners, each involved in face-to-face customer service practice or policy setting.

The panel comprised of Professor Moira Clark, director of The Henley Centre for Customer Management, Henley Business School and Jo Causon, chief executive of the Institute of Customer service representing the CRM industry.

Representing the retail sector were Mathew James, at the time, customer care manager at Argos FS and now director of Customer Care Solutions, working on a long-term project with Shop Direct Finance Company, amongst others and Michael Wallis, former customer services manager at the Page & Moy Travel Group and now Customer Services Manager, University of Cambridge.  From the wider industry were CRM experts Martin Baker, managing director of MicroFocus and Jonathan Pyefinch of CDC Software.