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Can’t get no satisfaction? Think again…

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What do John Lewis, Amazon and First Direct have in common? No, it’s not a state of the art Modbar coffee machine in their reception – it’s satisfied customers – well, what else would you expect a consumer research consultant to say?

This week saw publication of the bi-annual UK Customer Satisfaction Index (UKCSI) and the big news is that John Lewis have been knocked out of the top three – for the first time in seven years. Amazon is now the highest rated organisation, although John Lewis still made a very credible sixth place.

So it’s another survey – why care?

The UKCSI polls 10,000 customers who have actual experience of using each business – no hearsay or gossip was used in the making of this survey, thank you very much. The Institute of Consumer Studies also makes sure that the chosen not-so-few represent the full spectrum of consumers across the whole of the UK – so it’s a pretty good survey to get your chops around.

This year’s first survey had a focus on customer’s priorities, with 15 categories – from product reliability to the helpfulness of staff – being assessed. So what do your consumers want the most from your business? Competent staff – get those training programmes at the ready my TMP faithful. Friendliness and helpfulness were also seen as being more important than in previous surveys, so if you were planning on replacing your workforce with a fleet of highly trained robots, think again.

It’s also worth noting that the biggest difference between companies that did well and those who inhabit the lower ranks of the index was staff doing what they say they’d do. They were also better at handling complaints – both in time taken and outcome. See, this whole keeping customers happy thing doesn’t have to be rocket science.

Reasons to be cheerful.

The index also produced a genuine reason for us all to give ourselves a hearty pat on the back, as customer satisfaction went up for the first time in four years, with overall satisfaction rising from 76.2% to 77%. And yes, after the last few years businesses have endured, this is the one time when it’s totally appropriate to celebrate the small gains.

Well, unless you’re in banking! It’s true, sorry about that all my financial friends – but I did point out last June that you need to focus on customer more. Banks and building societies were the only sector – out of 13 – to experience a fall in customer satisfaction. Looks like there’s still a lot of work for you to do people – but it is possible! Just take a look at utilities. Much maligned by the UK press, this hard-done-to sector managed to pull off a bit of a coup with a 1.4% rise in customer satisfaction over the past six months. If they can do it, banking can too!

So what can we all take away from this?

Well, as competent staff are the number one priority for our consumers, we need to make sure the people get what the people want – staff training all the way. We also need to make sure we’re getting the basics right – I’m talking product quality, availability of support and the ease of finding what customers want. The index showed that when these things went AWOL, customer satisfaction was hit hard.

It also threw up a couple of warning signs too. Comparing the 2015 index with those from 2010 showed that customer priorities have changed over recent years. The quality of your staff is far more important than it used to be, and speed of service has become critical for a market full of consumers craving instant gratification. But the index also showed that customers’ priorities vary by sector and by type of customer. What does this mean? You need to understand your market. Just what I’ve been telling you all along – having market insights that show you the key drivers at your most important touchpoints is critical for any good business.

It’s also important to understand the different channels that customers use to interact with your business. Face-to-face encounters, online clicks and social media are all up there, along with the dreaded telephone help desk – and all of them need to do what the customer expects them to do. Don’t think it’s so simple though, because different customers use each channel for different reasons – and you need to find out the motives behind your customers decisions. And the UKCSI shows that you need to be providing a consistent level of service across all channels – and be able to assess how effective each of these channels are.

So maybe it’s not quite as simple as ensuring your staff are well trained but it’s still very doable – with the help of The Monachie Project. Our emotive user experience insights provide you with an instant roadmap of how your market sees you and what they want from every touchpoint – even from multiple channels. It’s why our clients see their businesses grow from good to great.

Ready to welcome more satisfied customers to your business? Don’t over think this one – it can be as simple as making a single phone call if you get in touch with The Monachie Project. You never know, next year you might be giving Amazon a run for their money.

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