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Energy, travel and telecoms industries are worst for customer service

How do retail, travel and car maintenance brands match up?

Energy, travel and telecoms brands are the most hated industries for their customer service, while car maintenance brands have the most impressed customers, Which? analysis reveals.

Telecoms brands scored an average of 69% for customer service, based on the big brands we included in our survey of 3,690 members of the public. Energy firms weren’t far behind, with an average 71% score for customer service. Travel brands edged slightly higher with 74%.

Car maintenance brands – those that help to keep your car on the road, such as breakdown assistance providers – scored 81% for their customer service, 12 percentage points higher than telecoms.

Read on to see how personal finance, supermarkets and retailers compare. Then see the full list of the best and worst brands in 2017’s customer service survey results.

Telecoms, energy and travel brands

Telecoms brands dominated the bottom of our table of 100 brands ranked for customer service this year, so it’s little surprise that the sector scores lowest on average overall. Five of the brands ranked 90th or lower sell mobile phones, landlines, broadband or TV.

In 2015, the last time the survey was carried out, energy firms occupied the lowest reaches of our customer service league table. But in 2017, the overall lowest-scoring brand, Sports Direct, is a retailer. There are no energy firms in the four lowest-scoring brands, suggesting that, on average, they are slightly ahead as a sector. Visit Which? Switch to see how energy companies compared in our 2017 satisfaction survey.

Personal finance, retailers and supermarkets all had average scores of 77% or above for customer service, based on the brands included in our survey. The highest-scoring brand overall was telephone bank, First Direct, which narrowly beat retailers Lush and Lakeland to the top spot.

Car maintenance and customer service

Edging a few percentage points ahead with 81%, car maintenance brands scored best on average for customer service. The AA, Kwik Fit and RAC were among the brands included in our survey.

RAC was placed sixth overall for its customer service, moving up from ninth place in 2015.

For the best cover if your car breaks down, check our car breakdown provider reviews, which put 24 firms head-to-head to reveal the best and cheapest services.

Do we expect more from customer service?

While customer service was once typically a face-to-face interaction with a company, or a conversation with a call centre, more and more people now carry out interactions with brands online. The rise of digital and social media in customer service is a ‘fundamental shift’, according to Dr Jeff Bray, lecturer in retail consumer behaviour at Bournemouth University. We expect personalised, tailored responses 24/7, which creates a ‘clear commercial imperative’ for brands ‘to respond in a timely manner’.

Consumers are ‘more likely to vote with their feet’

With our expectations of customer service growing, Jo Causon, chief executive of the Institute of Customer Service, thinks consumers have become ‘more discerning, more vocal and more likely to vote with their feet’.

With this in mind, consistency in customer service is key. But it’s also ‘one of the hardest things to get right’, she adds. ‘Successful organisations are easy to do business with, they’re clear about what they’re offering and they execute it well.’

Our customer service research

To find the best brands for customer service, in May 2017 we asked 3,690 members of the public to rate their experiences of the customer service of up to three of 100 of the biggest brands that people interact with in their daily lives.

The brands spanned seven sectors – car maintenance, energy, personal finance, retailers, supermarkets, telecoms and travel. The customer service scores for each sector are the average of all the brands included in that sector in our survey.

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