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UKCSI July ’17 results. Problems, complaints and the elephant in the room

This is our 2nd of 3 posts about the most recent UKCSI results.

This post focuses on the problems and complaints findings from the report and is expanded on, to show the wider impact to organisations which is the real elephant in the room that’s not being addressed. This is less about the report results per say, but more a reflection on organisational behaviour that needs to, but has yet to significantly change.

Let’s start with the numbers first though.

Improved complaints handing has contributed to the improvement in the customer satisfaction index over recent years. However the volume of complaints is back to the level that it was at in 2015 when overall satisfaction was at its lowest.

13.1% of customer experienced a problem as indicated in the July 17 report, compared to only 10.2% of customers who actually made a complaint following a problem, albeit this is the highest percentage it’s ever been.

If this was extrapolated out as a percentage of the working population (based on ONS working population data) then that’s 5 million people complaining in the last 6 months alone.

In addition, the percentage of escalated complaints for non-resolution is also up from 41.4% to 48.6%.

Retail, Public Services and Leisure are the three sectors seeing the highest number of escalated complaints with a year on year average increase of 11%.

Availability of goods/services account for 75.2% of complaint escalations with quality/reliability of goods/services being the most cited reason for a problem.

So what’s changed?

Three main factors have driven the increase in satisfaction with complaints handling;

  1. Faster resolution of complaints
  2. More favourable perceptions of employees’ behaviours during the complaints process
  3. More problems being actively followed up by organisations with customers, to ensure they have been resolved.

However, year on year the increase in customer satisfaction is only up 0.5 to a whopping 5.7 out of 10! This seems like a lot of effort for very little return. I’m not suggesting to not try and improve complaint handling but surely there’s a wider, bigger point to address?

So where’s the elephant then exactly?

From ICS’s own research, they indicate that on average there are 2.8 contacts between a customer and an organisation on a complaint, which rises to 3+ when a complaint isn’t resolved.

70% of these contacts they also state, are by phone, generating an estimated 9.9 million additional telephone calls.

On average the handing of a telephone contact costs £3.55*

An additional 9.9 million calls then costs on average £35,145,000 in unnecessary and probably avoidable cost to organisations and bear in mind this has been increasing year on year, every year for the last 8 years!

In lean six sigma terms this is waste. A lot of waste. Waste that can be identified and eliminated to improve not just the customer experience and their levels of satisfaction, but an increase and optimisation in internal efficiency and effectiveness.

This cost of handling additional contacts doesn’t even take into account the cost of reputational damage to organisations, lack of consumer confidence and trust (transparency and fairness) and business that has gone to competitors that could have stayed in place.

Why waste time and money trying to get better at something, when you could eliminate the need to improve by getting rid of the problem that caused the complaint?

Is it me or am I missing something?

The elephant in the room is that the specific causes and sources of problems aren’t being addressed and fixed. Instead, organisations seem to be getting (marginally) better at handling complaints, rather than eliminating the root causes.

Now you could argue that as customer expectation is constantly on the increase, the customers are more demanding than ever before and so are less tolerant of poor and average performance and that is in part correct.

But at The Customer Experience Coach, born out of our own experience, we see it time and time again. We see it within almost every organisation we work with. We also see it in our design thinking workshops when we get people to the point of clarity on what’s the real problem they’re trying to solve by making a change or driving new innovation.

You can literally see the light bulb moment appear on the faces of the people we share design thinking with who come to the realisation that for years they’ve been throwing solutions at problems that they don’t truly understand. The resulting situations are unnecessary, costly and resource heavy projects that either fail completely, or fail to deliver the solution because nobody took the time to understand what the exact problem was that they were trying to solve in the first place.

And so this is why organisations try to get better at handling complaints because the alternative appears to be too big, too messy to untangle and needs a collaborative approach to solving problems and most organisations aren’t in that space.

Ever heard the phrase “it’s like rearranging deck chairs on the titanic”. Something that’s easy to do but ultimately futile. It makes people look busy and they think they’re making a difference but really?

This isn’t a criticism, more an observation on reality. Organisations aren’t going to make a significant dent on complaints if they’re not prepared to really look at the root causes and fix the real specific problems rather than the imagined ones.

The same goes for design thinking. If you design a solution for a poorly defined problem then you’re not going to solve the problem.

So if this situation resonates with you on any level and you’d like to discuss any of the issues or challenges mentioned then please get in touch.

*Source Contact Babel UK contact centre benchmarking report 2015/16)

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UKCSI – July 17 latest results – Is the high street weathering the turbulent landscape?

In a series of bite size articles, this being the first, we’re going to explore the findings from the latest UK Customer Satisfaction Index results from the Institute of Customer Services.

This first piece covers the high level results, sector performance, key differentiators and loyalty. The following articles look at the impact of problems and complaints and the final part looks at channel preference and usage by customers.

To down load the full report with an executive summary click here

UK CSI Highlights

The overall index is back to its highest point ever, in the UKCSI’s 8 year history, last seen in 2013 at 78.2, up 0.8 year on year (from 77.4) amidst the turbulent back drop of a recent election and the continued Brexit discussions.

Improvements in satisfaction with complaint handing seem to be the significant driver of moving the overall index. However the number of customers indicating problems with organisation is on the increase which suggests a lack of root cause elimination of the causes of customer problems. Something we’ll discuss in more detail in the next post.

Average NPS is slightly up by 1.3 to 17 compared to this time last year but down by a massive 5.2 points from 22.2 in 2013. The average level of trust is unchanged year on year (at 7.7 out of 10) but customer effort has increased (+0.2 to 4.9), meaning customers are finding it more difficult to deal with organisations to get what they need.

6 sectors have increased by more than one point, and interestingly these include public services and utilities.

Of the 245 organisations in the CSI, 63 increased their score by over two point whilst 29 organisations fell by the same amount.

Of the 20 most improved organisations, 8 are utilities (6 water companies and 2 energy) and 5 are train operating companies driven in part by the desire from the regulator for better customer experiences.

The top 50

The usual suspects lead the league table; Amazon take top spot with 87, followed by first direct on 85.8 and John Lewis on 85.4.

Jet 2 Holidays are in the CSI for the first time and have come straight in at 4th place with a score of 84.8.

The only other new entrant in the top 50 is Pets at Home, in at joint 15th with Wilko and Premier Inn who all score 83.4

The largest year on year increase in satisfaction at 6 points is M&S (financial services), with the largest decrease seen by Iceland at 1.9, dropping their position from 16th last year to joint 47th this year. 

So what’s different about the top 50 from the rest?

Apart from year on year consistency overall, complaints handling, phone experiences and getting things right first time are the key differentiators.  

The graphic shows the 3 key differentiators broken down into their respective components and the difference in scores across each. Cleary the top 50 organisations are capable of delivering higher and more consistent performance in  these areas.

So is loyalty dead?

This is a discussion and debate that’s been around for a while now along with the ‘is it worth wowing customers versus delivering brilliant basics?’

Certainly in respect to the loyalty question the answer is no. However customers are much more discerning and demanding with where they choose to place their loyalty (trust and confidence) than ever before.

From the numbers perspective the impact on the difference in loyalty, trust, recommendation and reputation are quite marked between customers who score 8 out of 10, to those who score a 9 or 10 out of 10. That 1 point of difference in score could mean a significant amount in repeat business (or lack of) to an organisation. If you think of all those moments of truth (or interactions) that a customer experiences, there are a lot of opportunities to make a difference and organisations need to both understand and capitalise on them if they’re going to continue to succeed. The graphic shows the difference in percentage terms that 1 point can make.

Outcome focus

The July results report finishes with 6 areas of focus that have implications but are also areas of opportunities for organisations that should in an ideal world, already be on the radar;

1.       Quality of customer experience design

2.       Eliminating problems

3.       Engaged, competent people still make the difference

4.       Positioning service in a context of rising prices

5.       Segmenting by customer preference

So that’s a roundup of the high level numbers. The next part will focus on problems and complaints results and trends and the real elephant in the room that’s still not being tackled.