Customer service complaints have hit their highest level on record and are costing British businesses more than £9bn a month in lost staff time, research has found.
As firms struggle to cope with global supply issues and a staffing crisis, the Institute of Customer Service found more consumers were experiencing service issues than at any point since its customer satisfaction index began in 2008.
The ICS calculates that UK firms are having to spend a total of £9.24bn every month in worker hours covering complaints handling.
According to the customer satisfaction index released on Tuesday, shortages and supply chain issues have led to a 16% rise in customer problems, typically over quality and reliability of goods and services. It shows 17.3% of UK customers are experiencing a product or service problem – the highest level since it launched in 2008.
The bi-annual survey, which polled 10,000 consumers across 13 industry sectors, puts the jump down to global supply chain issues and staff shortages.
The best rated company for handling complaints in the latest index was infrastructure provider UK Power Networks, after strong communication and compensation payouts after Storms Eunice and Franklin earlier this year.
Customers rated it highly for trust, being open and transparent, having helpful and competent staff and an easy-to-use website.
Timpson, John Lewis and Tesco Mobile followed, with their scores improving by 8.9, 1.9 and 2.2 points respectively. Suzuki and Marks & Spencer shared the fifth place, with an extra 1.9 and 3.8 points each.
Of the top 50 companies providing good customer service, Specsavers was the biggest faller, dropping 38 places from ninth in July 2021 to 47th this month. However, the optician chain’s score only fell by 0.9 points, and it said it strives to provide “excellent customer service”.
The Co-operative Bank fell 25 spots from 13th place to 38th with a 0.5 point loss, followed by Premier Inn, which dropped from 25th to 49th, although it gained 0.4 points.
Amazon lost 0.3 points and dropped 19 places from third to 22nd place, and said it is proud to be “recognised as customer service leaders”, adding “we welcome feedback from customers and actively listen to ideas about how we can improve our products and services continuously.”
While there has been a trend for improved complaint handling, the ICS said there needed to be a shift away from “service recovery” to identifying and fixing the root cause of the problems.
More than a third of customers said they would pay more to guarantee excellent service, but 58% said low prices would be more important in influencing their choices over the next two years due to the cost of living crisis.