Organisations failing to cope with rising number of customer complaints

Organisations are failing to keep pace with their customers’ complaints, at a time when the volume is rising sharply, according to a study.

These are the findings of the National Complaints Culture Survey (NCCS) of 6,000 people, released today by consultancy TMI and the Institute of Customer Service (ICS).

Retail and leisure sectors are seen as the best at complaints handling, with consumers naming the John Lewis Group, Tesco, Marks and Spencer and independent hotels among the top companies.

The weaker sectors are government, communications and utilities, with BT, NTL/Telewest, local councils and British Gas being most frequently mentioned for poor handling of complaints.

More than 60% of customers are now willing to complain most of the time – a 10% increase in five years. Fifty-two per cent of customers believe UK organisations are getting worse at handling complaints, compared to 42% five years ago. Only 5% say their complaint is resolved at the first point of contact.

Clive Hicks, senior consultant and report author at TMI, said: “Five years of data show there is a yawning gap between customers’ expectations and organisations’ actual performance.

“Regulators’ guidelines in particular are out of touch by saying it is acceptable to take 28 days or longer to respond to a complaint. This is not keeping pace with what is important to the customer.”

TMI and ICS said ‘listen – then act’ is a recurring phrase from customers in the survey.

“Trust is built through being easy to do business with and more open and honest communication, particularly when it comes to complaints management,” said Hicks.

Recommendations for improvement are made in five areas: taking responsibility for complaints management, listening to the customer viewpoint, leading an agenda for change, equipping and deploying enough resource, and having an implementation plan.

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