Firebrand’s annual Customers in Britain survey provides key information for service providers across the country, and has done so now for more than ten years. Our Spring 2016 findings were set against increasing public confidence in, for instance, job security and savings returns.
Headline trends include an increasing willingness to pay handsomely for enhanced or premium service. This should be viewed in the context of a new style of consumer savviness that is reflected, for instance, in increased discount supermarket shopping and a new readiness to switch service-supplier. This year has shown an 8 percentage point increase in current account switching (from the 3% noted last year to 11% in this year’s survey.
With switching in mind, the search for potential suppliers is usually undertaken online. Price comparison sites (PCWs) and expert blogs are influential with 40% of all energy and insurance switching via that channel; 6 out of 10 Britons now claim that PCWs are influential in their switch decision-making.
Naturally, social media continues its inexorable rise in influence: Half of our nationally representative sample had made positive comments relating to service providers this year and a third had vented their spleen online. Direct online discussion with service providers is becoming the norm: 34% of those aged 18-34 have engaged in customer/provider debate online. Social media complaining is fast becoming the acknowledged means to gain redress or simply to let off steam at the expense of service provider reputation; meantime, direct customer complaining is in serial decline.
Call centre performance remains a hot potato: Extended hold times and the miscommunication potential created by call agents for whom English is not the first language top the list of frustrations.
Complaint resolution is felt to be a strength of the supermarket sector, but to be a weakness in the health service and in local and central Government.
It’s an intriguing and challenging time for service providers. Markets are increasingly open and transparent, and shortcomings can be exposed more easily than ever before. Distribution strategy and promotional activity are as important as ever, but what are the keys that will unlock the door marked loyalty?
The full findings of this influential and authoritative research are available to purchase. Just click on the Customers in Britain tab to be taken to an order form.