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Customer Service

Institute of Customer Service survey shows consumers complain more despite fewer problems


By Gillian West, Social media manager

January 14, 2013 | 2 min read

A survey from the Institute of Customer Service (ICS) has revealed that despite facing far fewer problems when purchasing good and services than they did five years ago consumers are more likely to complain when things do go wrong.

Andrew Aldred, head of marketing at, commented that the findings echo the trend of “increased consumer expectations and reduced tolerance”.

Aldred added: “The flip side however, is that complaints are one of the most immediate and free sources of customer insight available to businesses every day. The increased level of complaints that the ICS has revealed means there is more potential customer feedback for a company to utilise, yet these complaints are often overlooked and not utilised efficiently.

“Companies are in danger of creating a situation where the marketing department is struggling to make sense of customer grievances whilst the customer service team is struggling to deal with the quantities of complaints from aggrieved customers.”

Since January 2008 those facing problems has fallen from 17 per cent to 11.7 per cent, but those making complaints rose from 72 per cent to 76 per cent in the same period.

Jo Causon, ICS chief executive, said the finding show how “customers who have a bad experience are much more likely to tell others - and to tell more people - than customers who have had a good experience”.

Over half (62 per cent) of complaints made arose from ‘people-related issues’, over a third (34 per cent) of complaints made were the result of quality and reliability of goods and services. Those who encountered a problem and chose not to complain was found to be just shy of a quarter (24 per cent).

Of the 3,000 responses staff attitude and staff competence were found to be the ‘most annoying or frustrating’ service problems.

Aldred concluded that: “Businesses need to align customer service teams with the marketing department to close this communication gap in order to better utilise information available from complaints.”

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