Consumers becoming more liable to complain about goods and services

UK consumers today are more inclined to complain about goods and services than five years ago despite encountering less problems, research finds.

The percentage of customers who experience a problem has decreased from 17 per cent in January 2008 to 11.7 per cent in July 2012, while the proportion of those that went on to make a complaint rose from 72 per cent to 76 per cent in the same period.

According to the report of 3,000 consumers by the Institute of Customer Service (ICS), people-related issues such as staff attitude and competence cause the majority (62 per cent) of problems eliciting a complaint.

In comparison, the quality or reliability of goods and services accounts for just a third (34 per cent) of complaints.

When asked about the most annoying or frustrating service problems, customers cite ‘staff attitude’ (rated 8.5 out of 10), ‘staff competence’ (8.4) and ‘organisations not keeping promises’ (8.8).

The sectors experiencing the highest proportion of complaints relating to staff attitude and competence are local public services (44 per cent attitude/36 per cent competence), leisure (36 per cent attitude/37 per cent competence) and national public services (37 per cent attitude and competence).

Some 24 per cent of customers who recently experienced a problem did not make a complaint about it.

The sector experiencing the highest proportion of ‘silent sufferers’ is the transport sector, where 37 per cent of customers recently facing a problem did not complain, followed by leisure (34 per cent) and the public sector (local and national) (28 per cent).

The majority of these ‘silent sufferers’ (51 per cent) claim that their main reason for avoiding making a complaint is that they think it will make no difference.

Jo Causon, ICS chief executive says, ‘Our research suggests that customers are most satisfied when complaints are dealt with immediately. As a result, organisations need to ensure that all customer contacts are handled consistently well, and that customers are not passed from pillar to post.’

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