Non-food retailers continue to set the standard for customer satisfaction in the UK, according to research from the Institute of Customer Service, which places the sector in the number one spot. However, the overall score for the sector is still falling at a quicker pace than the all-sector average in the latest UK Customer Satisfaction Index (UKCSI).
In line with all but two of the 13 sectors surveyed by the Institute of Customer Service, the independent professional body for customer service, customer satisfaction has continued to drop in the non-food retail sector, reaching its lowest point since 2010.
The average score for the sector declined by 1.7 points, a larger a drop than the all-sector average of 1.1. Only four retail organisations reported an improvement in customer satisfaction since last year while ten reported falls of more than one point.
"Non-food retailers continue to outperform other sectors, showing that their approach to customer service is still in many ways more sophisticated that other areas in the UK economy. However we are seeing the polarisation," noted Jo Causon, CEO for the Institute of Customer Service.
Organisations that are traditionally good at customer service are maintaining their position while those with lower levels of customer satisfaction are falling further behind. This is creating a customer service divide both within the retail sector and across the economy as a whole.
"Also the link between good customer service and business performance is becoming clearer every time we undertake UKCSI. It is important that retailers do not ignore the consistent decline in customer satisfaction - our research suggests that those organisations with the lowest customer satisfaction suffer in terms of lower market share, fewer repeat purchases and a lower likelihood of recommendations," said Causon.
John Lewis was the highest scoring organisation in the sector with 87.2 points (out of 100), followed by Amazon, Argos and Next. In contrast, five organisations scored below 75 points. With the scores of twelve organisations dropping by one point or more, the non-food retail sector highlights the huge diversity of performance within the sector and across the entire UKCSI.
The percentage of complaints to companies in the retail non-food sector through social media has increased from 2.6% to 6.1%. This is still low compared to the 41% that complained face-to-face, the most popular way to complain, but the use of social media continues to increase dramatically.
Across all 28 metrics of customer satisfaction in the UKCSI, customers rate the performance of the Retail Non-food sector higher than the all-sector average in all areas. The biggest performance gaps were found in "problem solving", "timeliness" and "quality and efficiency" suggesting these were areas where other sectors can learn most from non-food retailers.
"In this period of economic recovery it is tempting for organisations to focus on short term objectives. That being said a concerted effort must to deliver improving levels of service to provide clear differentiation in a very competitive sector. Leaders of retail organisations must hold on to this initiative, maintain focus and champion customer service, which will in turn, help to ensure the UK remains a leader in the delivery of excellent customer service," concluded Causon.