First Direct, John Lewis, Marks & Spencer and online giant Amazon were the four top ranked brands for customer service last year, new findings reveal.
But overall customer satisfaction plummeted to the lowest level since July 2015 as businesses battled to respond to the fallout from the pandemic.
Delayed deliveries, sluggish or non-existent returns and poor quality or damaged goods have become a reality for swathes of customers during the pandemic, and problems are having to be sorted out online or on the phone rather than in person.
Top 10: These 10 companies achieved the highest scores for customer service satisfaction
How satisfied are you? Customer service satisfaction rates have gone down to the lowest since July 2015, the ICS said
While high-street stalwart John Lewis fared well in the rankings, the retailer still saw its customer service satisfaction level slip, according to the Institute of Customer Services’ latest detailed survey.
Joanna Causon, chief executive of the ICS said some companies had ‘struggled to adapt, or failed to engage proactively, adding to the disruption and anxiety experienced by customers and employees.’
Some companies with operations both here in Britain and overseas are also citing Brexit as a reason for delays in their network affecting customers.
Nearly 15 per cent of shoppers surveyed said they had experienced a problem with their shopping experience in the past year and the overall customer satisfaction level now stands at 76.8 points, which is the lowest level since July 2015.
The proportion of shoppers who experienced a problem with an organisation in the past year is the highest since records began at the ICS in 2008.
Shifts A chart showing the year-on-year changes in in customer satisfaction by sector
Dealing with problems: Channels for sorting out customer service issues
Businesses in the banking, tourism and travel sectors suffered a marked downturn in customer satisfaction levels as the pandemic sparked a myriad of challenges for both companies and consumers.
Firms like airlines and coach companies have seen swathes of bookings cancelled as a result of lockdowns and travel restrictions, seeing customers scrambling to get their money back.
First Direct pips John Lewis to the post
In the ICS’ latest rankings, online-only bank First Direct came out in first place, with a customer service satisfaction score of 85.5. The group bucked the trend for spiraling customer satisfaction in the banking sector as a whole.
Speaking to This is Money, Chris Pitt, chief executive of First Direct said the bank strived to ‘treat customers as individuals rather than just another number.’
First Direct has knocked John Lewis off the top spot, with the department store chain slipping down to second place with a customer service satisfaction rate of 85.1, which is slightly slower than the previous year.
Second place: First Direct has knocked John Lewis off the top spot in the latest survey
John Lewis has been inundated with a surge in online orders in the past year and some customers appear to be having trouble with refunds temporarily channeled through Waitrose stores while John Lewis stores remain shut.
One user on Twitter claimed she had been passed from ‘pillar to post’ trying to get a refund via John Lewis, while another customer says she has been waiting since August to get her money back from the department store chain.
While some problems persist, John Lewis remains a hit with many customers on the customer service front.
Marks & Spencer’s non-food arm also fared well in the latest customer service rankings, coming in third place with an overall score of 84.1, up 1.7 points from the previous year, when it came eighteenth in the league table. The group’s food arm came fifth in the new rankings.
In November, Marks & Spencer revealed it slumped to a loss for the first time in its 94 years as a public company.
The high street giant fell to a £87.6million pre-tax loss for the 26 weeks to 26 September. That compared to a £158.8million profit from the same period last year.
But the company said it had performed ‘better than expected’ during the first half, with revenue falling less than initially predicted.
It said revenue for the period slid by 15.8 per cent to £4.09billion, mainly due to the impact of lower clothing and home sales.
Winner: Amazon has enjoyed bumper sales throughout the pandemic
Online giant Amazon climbed from fifth to fourth place in the latest customer service satisfaction, but still saw its satisfaction rates drop slightly from the previous year.
Amazon has been a lockdown ‘winner’ during the pandemic and made the most of the surge in demand for online shopping over the past year.
The US-based online giant saw earnings soar by 37 per cent to over $96billion in its third quarter.
Tesco Mobile, Pets at Home and Netflix also featured in the top ten companies currently providing customers with the best customer service.
The ICS said Ocado was the fastest growing retailer in the past year, with sales up by 36.1 per cent. Although, Ocado’s customer satisfaction (80.0) remains 2.1 points below its January 2020 level, it has improved by 1.3 points.
Shifting shopper habits
Over 30 per cent of shoppers surveyed by the ICS said they had done more online shopping than ever before in the past year.
A sizeable chunk of people also said the pandemic had made them think more carefully about what purchases they were making.
Twenty per cent said they had actually cut the amount of money they spent overall in a bid to save cash, or simply because they had less to spend.
The findings have also revealed an upturn in the number of people seeking out local, independent shops to buy their essentials from rather than chains.
Twenty-two per cent said their financial situation had worsened during the pandemic.
Calvin Klein blames Brexit for refund delays
Some Calvin Klein customers based in Britain are battling to receive refunds from the high-end fashion retailer.
The group, which has its registered office in Amsterdam and is US-based, has told some customers that Brexit has delayed the processing of its refunds.
The company temporarily paused refunds, but has since restarted them. In recent weeks, a number of Calvin Klein customers have taken to Twitter to ask Calvin Klein where their refunds are.
This is Money has contacted Calvin Klein owner PVH Corp for comment.
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