Sixty-two per cent of Brits believe they’re treated “fairly well” by businesses in Britain.
For a country of 66.6 million, that’s a positive sign most of us are doing something right. But what about the 21 per cent who believe they’re treated poorly, and the two per cent who believe service in the UK is “very bad”? 
The coronavirus pandemic has – for better or worse – revealed a stark contrast in the way customers are treated in Britain. While some have gone above and beyond to impress, others have stumbled.
So what have been some of the biggest mistakes and who stood out above the rest?
1) Switching off channels and leaving customers in the lurch
When offices and non-essential shops were ordered to close in March, customers had to turn to alternative channels for care and support. Demand for phone, e-mail and social media service skyrocketed, driving up wait times and putting extra pressure on contact centres as they were transitioning to remote working or operating on skeleton staff to comply with social distancing rules . As demand grew, customers became more and more frustrated, while agents did their best to balance service quality with speed.
To ease the pressure, some quick-thinking companies set up new self-service channels, such as AI-powered chatbots, virtual assistants and messaging apps, to help customers with basic requests and give their agents more time to focus on complex enquiries. Supermarket giant Lidl, for example, launched a chatbot on WhatsApp to help its customers find the quietest time to shop, while the UK Government launched an automated bot to answer common questions about the coronavirus, its symptoms and its spread. Many online retailers also used bots to help process returns and check delivery statuses. But others, including a top fashion retailer, switched off their helplines and instead instructed customers to consult their FAQs or e-mail for urgent enquiries.
Shutting down channels and making it harder for your customers to get in touch with questions and complaints is risky business. Complaints website Resolver found companies that were easy to contact during lockdown were rewarded with higher customer satisfaction scores, while those that were difficult to contact suffered .
2) Breaking trust and failing to deliver on promises
The travel industry has been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, with international travel bans, lockdowns and quarantine measures forcing the cancellation of hundreds of thousands of flights and holiday bookings. But trust in the sector has crumbled over the last few months, with some airlines, hotels and travel agencies failing to support their customers and comply with their consumer rights. Research conducted by review site Which? found trust in the travel industry slumped from a net score of 9 in February to -12 in May, as airlines and agencies refused to issue refunds for flights and holidays cancelled due to the coronavirus .
How individual companies have treated their customers during this time will long be remembered. Those that have gone above and beyond to support the needs of their customers when they needed it most will be rewarded with greater loyalty in return. But those that have broken their customers’ trust and failed to deliver on promises risk doing serious damage to their reputation. Other long-term consequences of bad customer service include higher customer churn rates, lower employee engagement, and of course, loss of profit.
3) Making excuses and being slow to adapt
Six months into lockdown and some companies are still blaming lengthy wait times, ongoing delays and reduced communication channels on the pandemic. Energy suppliers, broadband providers and cruise agencies are just some of the companies that have been called out by media for these customer service faux pas.
The companies that have left the best impressions on their customers are those that have been agile and innovative during the crisis, adapting their processes and trying new ways of doing things. According to business review site Trustpilot, hardware stores and garden centres have received tremendous praise from customers for their efficiency during lockdown, despite being limited by social distancing rules. Package delivery companies and pharmacies have also been thanked for expanding their online capabilities and coming up with new, safer ways to deliver goods .
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