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Customer complaints ‘costing businesses over £9bn a month in lost staff hours’

A record number of consumer problems and complaints are costing British business £9.24bn a month in staff hours (Brian Lawless/PA)
A record number of consumer problems and complaints are costing British business £9.24bn a month in staff hours (Brian Lawless/PA)

Customer complaints have reached an all-time high and have cost businesses more than £9 billion a month in staff hours, according to new figures.

The Institute of Customer Service’s Customer Satisfaction Index (UKCSI) revealed that 17.3% of UK customers have experienced a product or service problem – the highest figures since records began in 2008 – which cost British firms £9.2 billion a month in staff time spent handling the complaints.

The index also revealed that 42.8% of problems were linked to the quality and reliability of goods and services, while 26.4% were linked to the suitability of goods and services.

Factors including global supply chain issues and labour shortages were reported to have impacted the customer experience.

Jo Causon, chief executive at the Institute of Customer Service, said that businesses needed to understand the “the trade-offs different customers are willing to consider in terms of price, quality, availability, sustainability and support”.

She added: “Organisations will need to ensure they maintain essential services and are transparent about the level of service they provide, depending on the product, services and price points customers choose.”

The UKCSI found that 35% of customers would pay more for a better service, with 58% stating that low prices would play a pivotal part in their choice of provider, product or service moving forward as the cost-of-living crisis continues to bite.

More than 10,000 customers were polled for the UKCSI – a bi-annual report published in January and July every year since 2008, across 13 key sectors including retail and telecommunications and media.

The top-rated organisation for July 2022 was utilities company UK Power Networks.

Online supermarket and technology group Ocado also featured in the ranking, at number seven.

The online grocer and technology firm has had a successful 2022 so far, as it extended its grip of the French retail market through the extension of a partnership with French retailer Groupe Casino and raised £575 million to invest in its technology arm in June.

The top 10 rated organisations in July 2022, according to the index, are:

1. UK Power Networks
2. Timpson
3. John Lewis
4. Tesco Mobile
5= Suzuki
5= M&S
7. Ocado
8. Waitrose
9. Apple
10. First Direct