According to a survey, while 83% of consumers expect businesses to work harder to keep them since the recession, just 5% of think that customer service has improved over the last three years. 

The channels that customers are using to complain are changing too. While 41% of people will make a complaint by phone and 63% by email, 20% take to social media sites to have a good old moan to friends and family. 

This means more negative comments about companies and highlights the need for customer service improvements, as well as policies to monitor and respond to complaints on social media channels. 

The YouGov survey, commissioned by technology provider Avanade, surveyed 1,998 UK consumers about their attitudes to customer service, as well as the types of company they tend to complain about most. 

Satisfaction with customer service 

Just 2% said that their interactions with customer service staff were 'typically enjoyable' while 35% proclaimed themselves as satisfied. 

On the flip side, 9% said they tend to 'pull their hair out' when dealing with customer service staff, 33% said their experiences were frustrating, and 14% unsatisfactory. 

Just 14% of adults in Great Britain think companies live up to the customer service promised by businesses in their marketing campaigns. 

Types of company complained about

While 39% hadn't complained to a company in the past year, financial services firms and utilities are the most common targets of people's ire. 

17% said financial services companies were the ones they complained about most, followed by utilities on 14% and retailers on 13%. 

So how do people complain? 

41% of people still use the telephone to complain to a company and 63% of people use email, but a significant proportion (20%) will use social media to sound off to friends and family.

This is a trend that looks set to continue, as the figure rises to 36% for 18-24 year olds.

I've been looking at Twitter for customers' opinions on brands' customer service, searching for name of brand + 'customer service' for several financial brands, and the results highlights the value of great customer service. 

While I found the odd complaint for most of the major banks, Santander seemed to be the target for the most vitriol:

Twitter complaints Santander

This is not so surprising given both my own experience of trying to get through to someone from the company by phone, and the FSA's findings that it was the most complained about bank last year. 

It's interesting that, in a sector that has a bad reputation already and has had plenty of negative press thanks to the recession, a firm can stand out by providing good customer service. 

While looking at various Twitter complaints, the name of first direct was mentioned several times in a positive light. Here's another example: 

cust service 6

This underlines the importance of customer service, not only for customer satisfaction and therefore improved retention rates, but also for great word of mouth marketing. 

As Scott Woodhead wrote in a recent guest post on relationship capital in customer services, 'the future lies with companies who can be a friendly face in the crowded and anonymous online market place'. 

Graham Charlton

Published 18 March, 2011 by Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton is the former Editor-in-Chief at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter or connect via Linkedin or Google+

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Comments (8)

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A global survey by Accenture confirms these findings. 26% of consumers posted negative
comments after having a bad customer
experience and 23% say that negative comments posted on social media sites contribute to my consideration of not buying a given product or service. Survey can be found here -->

over 7 years ago


Sandra Rowland

Companies will HAVE to start to listen to their customers - or suffer the consequences!

over 7 years ago



Lets face it, complaining online fixes things faster.

Brands doesnt want a negative viral loop.

over 7 years ago


Tom Osborne

Totally agree with the sentiments in this piece - Customers expectation is that banks and other companies service customers where customers choose to be, not where the organisation wants to or is setup to manage.
We recently built a world-first 'Virtual Branch' application for New Zealand bank ASB within Facebook, and are working on other customer service related application development projects for Facebook and mobile devices, which incorporate things like secure live chat, skype video calling, etc. The response from potential clients to these projects has been huge.

over 7 years ago



I have personally complained about poor customer service received by a company via social networking, purely to increase the odds of the company picking up my enquiry.

It seems a shame that some companies do not respond to telephone calls and/or email enquiries for weeks however as soon as you pipe up on their FB wall... They respond!!

over 7 years ago


Allen Bredeson

Great post here. I'm glad to see some solid studies come to light about the sheer number of consumers that are using Social Media to relay their satisfaction levels.

Our company, SERVICE 800, is in the business of helping companies measure customer satisfaction using phone and web surveys and have begun developing a tool to help companies monitor social media feedback focusing on service and support. Its amazing some of the comments that are posted and makes you wonder if the big companies are really listening.

over 7 years ago



Even small businesses must take this on board. I have lost count of the number of small business owners who don't take on board these lessons and have to be educated about the importance of Social Media. Many still think that this is for youngsters and not a business issue. This is what I term 'Old World'. Thinking they are the businesses that wont survive in today's market place.

over 7 years ago



Europcar car rental company in UK should be investigated by human resources for racism, staff bullying and unfair employee contract.

about 7 years ago

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