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’.