First Direct, Lakeland and Lush are the best big brands for customer service in the UK in 2017, according to our survey of more than 3,000 consumers.
This year’s customer service champion, First Direct, finished narrowly ahead of Lush and Lakeland, which share second place. Our poll asked members of the public to rate up to three of 100 of the biggest brands in the UK for their customer service.
Online bank First Direct was rated excellent by a higher proportion of people than any other brand in four of the five areas of customer service we asked about. An impressive 63% said that its staff’s attitude was excellent.
At the other end of the scale, Sports Direct sits in 100th place, falling from its position of joint 73rd in 2015.
Scroll down to see the full list of 100 of the UK’s biggest brands and how they compare for customer service.
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Top five brands for customer service
(Sample size in brackets)
Bottom four brands
The rest of the table in full
RAC narrowly missed out on a top five ranking, coming in sixth with a customer service score of 84%. It is the highest-placed car maintenance firm, followed by Green Flag in joint 13th place. Apple, which scored well in our recent high street shops survey, also shares joint 13th position.
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In fourth place, Waitrose is the highest-scoring supermarket by a long way. Asda and Sainsbury’s are joint 25th, while Aldi, Iceland, Morrisons and Tesco all occupy joint 38th position. Lidl is the lowest-scoring supermarket for customer service, in joint 74th position.
For more insight into how supermarkets compare, including on their range of products, quality of fresh and frozen food, and value for money, head to our best and worst supermarkets results.
Debenhams, HMV, Ikea and Mothercare are among the major retailers included in our customer service survey. The average customer service score for retailers is 77%. Ikea narrowly misses this mark (scoring 76%), while HMV gets 77%, and Debenhams and Mothercare both score 78%.
Lush and Lakeland are the highest-scoring retailers included; at the very bottom of the table, Sports Direct is the lowest-scoring. It gets just two stars for resolving complaints, and customers reported poor staff attitudes.
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British Airways’ placing has suffered since our last survey. This year it comes joint 80th, compared with joint 27th in 2015. In the intervening years, BA has seen multiple cabin crew strikes and suffered an IT meltdown in late May 2017.
British Airways still finishes ahead of budget carrier Ryanair, in joint 97th position, but achieves the same score as Easyjet, in joint 80th place. Up in joint 13th position, Thomas Cook is the top-scoring travel firm included.
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Narrowly avoiding the bottom four placings are telecoms giants Virgin Media and TalkTalk, and Big Six energy firm Npower. The three brands share joint 94th place.
Telecoms firms are clustered around the bottom of the table; five of the brands ranked 90th or lower sell mobile phones, landlines, broadband or television. Vodafone finished in 99th place. Of all 100 brands it has the highest proportion of ‘very poor’ ratings from its customers for efficiency in resolving complaints. BT isn’t included this year owing to a flaw in the data collected.
Why the best brands stand out for customer service
One of the key elements of good customer service is having friendly, helpful staff – more than half of you (53%) chose this as one of the things you value the most about a customer service experience. UK-based call centres are the second most valued (by 41%), and staff taking responsibility rather than passing you around from person to person is also very important to more than a third (37%).
It’s no surprise, then, that the top-scoring brands in our survey all received high scores for making customers feel valued and for the attitudes and helpfulness of their staff.
One First Direct customer told us it delivers ‘simply unbeatable service’, while another said the brand is ‘always easy to contact and deal with, communications are clear and relevant, and any time there is a problem (which is rare), it is speedily resolved’.
Lakeland’s customers love its ‘helpful’, ‘knowledgeable’ and ‘friendly’ staff and 60% of them rate its staff’s attitude and helpfulness as excellent.
Lush was given top marks for staff knowledge of products and services by 66% of people, a greater proportion than any other brand. One customer said: ‘I always find the staff helpful and informative. They offer great advice on products best suited to the individual.’
Why customer service matters
Outstanding customer service leaves a lasting impression, and three quarters of us will tell our friends or family about a positive experience. But encountering shoddy service, rude staff or frustration over the phone winds us up so much that nearly nine in ten of us are put off using a company again.
Research by the Institute of Customer Service (ICS) found that financial success and customer satisfaction are linked in the retail sector. Chief executive of the ICS, Jo Causon, explains that ‘brands with high levels of customer satisfaction also have high levels of sales. They’re outperforming the market.’ She adds: ‘If employees are not engaged, customers will notice and vote with their feet.’
How does customer service from small brands compare?
Smaller brands often top our sector-specific surveys, so we also asked customers to rate the brands which topped other Which? surveys, but were too small to make the cut for our main survey, to see how their customer service compares.
Online grocer Ocado scored highest of the small brands included in our snapshot*. AllBeauty.com and Richer Sounds came in joint second place.
1. Ocado (37) 88%
=2. AllBeauty.com (35) 86%
=2. Richer Sounds (39) 86%
4. John Lewis/Waitrose credit card (35) 85%
5. Ovo Energy (39) 84%
6. Toolstation (40) 82%
7. Giffgaff (37) 81%
8. British Airways credit card (34) 75%
*Our snapshot small brands results are not comparable with the 100 big brands results as they’re based on smaller sample sizes.
Which? customer service research
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 people interact with in everyday life, across seven sectors.
We asked about overall customer service experience as well as making customers feel valued, attitude of staff, efficiency of resolving queries or complaints, staff knowledge of the product or service, and access to customer support. Sample sizes are in brackets. A result of n/a means we received too few responses to give a rating.