Customer satisfaction with businesses ‘at worst levels since 2015’


Customer service satisfaction with businesses has slumped to its worst levels overall since 2015, according to an index.

Particularly sharp declines were recorded for banks and building societies and tourism and transport sectors, according to the Institute of Customer Service, which surveys 10,000 consumers every six months.

The fall in customer satisfaction in the banking, tourism and transport sectors reflected a growth in the number of customers experiencing a problem and a fall in satisfaction with complaints handling, the report said.

The January 2021 overall index score was 76.8 out of 100, marking the lowest level since July 2015, when the score was 76.2.

Common reported problems generally reported to the study included the quality or reliability of goods and services, late deliveries and staff competence.

The latest survey also found around one in seven (14.6%) customers had experienced a problem with an organisation, up from 13.6% in January 2020 and marking a record high for the study, which started in 2008.

The Institute’s findings indicate the situation steadily deteriorated throughout 2020, as the UK dealt with the challenges of the coronavirus pandemic.

Over the course of last year, an increasing number of consumers reported dissatisfaction with the levels of customer service they received from organisations, and falls in satisfaction with organisations’ complaint handling.

The report also found that overall customer satisfaction with the food retail sector was up slightly compared with January 2020.

Despite this apparent stability, there has been a spike in the number of customers experiencing a problem, at 13.9%, which was the highest level recorded for the sector.

Over a third (34.3%) of the problems concerned the availability of products and services.

The report also generally found that as more people turned online to perform everyday tasks, customer satisfaction with email and app experiences fell year on year.

By contrast, consumer satisfaction levels increased slightly with in-person interactions, reflecting continued desire for a “human touch” in customer experiences.

The index also analysed the different experiences of consumers during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Just over a fifth (22%) said their financial or physical wellbeing had got worse, and 18.8% said their mental health had deteriorated.

People with a disability or long-term health condition were more likely than average to have experienced a decline in their financial, physical and mental wellbeing.

Jo Causon, chief executive at the Institute of Customer Service said: “In an increasingly complex customer experience environment, a bad encounter makes the difference between a one-off transaction and a long-term, loyal customer.

“As the UK economy continues to feel the devastating impact of the coronavirus crisis, maintaining excellent levels of service will be key to pulling the nation out of recession.”