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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