We have previously looked at UK consumers’ preferences regarding customer service and help desk options. In this second part of our study, we compare consumer experiences in the UK with other countries to gather a holistic view of the customer support landscape and insights into which sectors cater well to customers’ expectations.

How can UK SMEs cater to consumer expectations of customer service?

Customer service is a vital element for the success of any small to midsize enterprise (SME). In the first part of our Customer Support and Help Desk Survey, we saw that UK consumers have different preferences when it comes to customer help. While many like talking to human agents, consumers want to be able to multitask while in contact with customer services and appreciate the flexibility other help desk solutions can provide.

However, how does customer service in the UK compare to other countries? And how can UK SMEs leverage these insights from international customer preferences when it comes to focusing on localised customer support, but also preparing for customer service solutions if they ever need to expand their services internationally?

Capterra surveyed 4,393 consumers in the UK, Germany, Mexico, Australia, Brazil, and Japan who had used customer services, help desk services, or both to learn more about their experiences in this area. In this article, we examine how consumers feel about the evolution of customer service in recent years and their preferences towards local or global institutions and specific sectors. 

The full methodology is available at the end of the article.

UK consumers are the least impressed by how customer service has evolved

In the UK, customer service complaints hit their highest level on record last July, costing British businesses over £9bn a month in lost staff time. Though the digitalisation of customer service can streamline and automate certain processes, not all consumers are convinced that customer service has improved in recent years.

UK opinions were mixed when it came to evaluating how customer service had evolved over the past two years. While 35% of respondents said that this service had improved, 32% of UK survey respondents felt that customer service had worsened during this period, with another 33% saying they hadn’t noticed any difference. 

In comparison to respondents from other countries, UK participants were the ones who most felt that this service had worsened. UK companies, in particular, need to identify ways to improve their customer support and deliver services that cater to user demands and preferences. 

How has the state of customer service changed in the past 2 years?

UK consumers prefer customer support from local companies

Customer satisfaction concerning support services may vary depending on where a business is located. 43% of UK consumers say local companies offer better customer service than global companies, in their experience, while 37% don’t notice any difference between the two. This preference for the service provided by local companies also applies to respondents from Germany, Australia, and Japan. 

UK consumer preference for customer service from local companies can be an opportunity for British SMEs to compete and differentiate themselves from global competitors. Local SMEs should leverage regional rapport to create more personalised services to stand out in their sector. 

However, not all consumers prefer local companies. In Brazil and Mexico, respondents indicated a stronger preference for customer service from global companies. This shows that in some cases, local rapport isn’t enough, and investing in customer service tools or customer relationship management (CRM) systems may help build customer trust and loyalty for SMEs who want to expand their business internationally. 

What type of companies offer best meet expectations of customer service?

45% of UK consumers think they’re bothering customer services

45% of UK consumers usually feel like they are bothering customer support services when they contact them. This may not be a case of British politeness seeping out to customer service but rather an issue of the perception UK consumers get when interacting with customer support and help desks. 

While 76% of Mexicans, 74% of Japanese, and 63% of Brazilians feel like valued customers when talking to support services, just over half (56%) of UK consumers feel that way. This is the lowest value from our surveyed respondents. 

Are customer's values met when they contact support services?

UK SMEs should keep this in mind, as this could affect customer satisfaction rates. By providing automated but personalised emails following up on their queries, requesting feedback, or simply saying that you can help, customers may feel more valued and comfortable.

Additionally, UK SMEs could consider adding other alternative ways of providing support that don’t require interacting with agents or experiencing uncomfortable situations, such as chatbots or self-service capabilities.  

UK consumers are among the highest providers of feedback

UK consumers are open to giving feedback. Close to half of UK respondents (44%) usually provide feedback regardless of whether the experience is positive or negative. Nonetheless, they were the lowest-ranking country among our survey respondents when it came to sending feedback only to positive experiences. 

However, one in seven UK respondents never provides feedback even if they are asked to. It is essential to try to meet customer expectations and understand their pain points and frustrations. Survey software is a useful tool for collecting this information, but UK SMEs should also look for additional approaches to measure customer satisfaction without surveys.

How can UK SMEs measure customer satisfaction beyond surveys?

Along with survey software, there are other ways that technology can help SMEs determine what consumers think of their customer service.

  • Social media metrics and mentions: SMEs can monitor social media to see what consumers think of their service and measure if they are gaining or losing followers. 
  • Measurement of the frequency of complaints or repeat purchases: SMEs can use web analytics tools to measure the number of returning visitors to their website or deploy business intelligence (BI) tools to collect, share, and analyse customer data. 
  • Chat and conversation analysis: Chatbots can incorporate deep learning software and sentiment analysis with the help of natural language processing (NLP). This technology can mine texts and identify information within conversations that can assist in understanding customer attitudes, reactions, and intentions. If dissatisfaction is detected promptly, agents can intervene and prevent escalation. 

Banks deliver the best customer support for UK consumers

Some industry verticals are more successful than others when it comes to customer service. When asked to pick up to three industries that provide the best customer service,  49% of UK respondents chose the banking industry. This was followed by the telecommunications and internet industry (32%) and consumer goods (21%). 

Interestingly, banks ranked first or second in all surveyed countries. The emergence of digital-only banking means that banks need to compete to add value and gain customer loyalty against larger banking corporations. A recent survey shows that online banks rank as the best service providers among banks offering personal and business accounts in the UK. 

Other industries have followed suit in optimising their customer service during the COVID-19 pandemic to the extent that, for many, the pandemic is no longer an excuse for poor customer support. SMEs should keep an eye on customer service developments in companies that lead these sectors to gain insights to improve their own processes.

Different industries rank in the top 3 for customer service in each surveyed country

While the banking industry took the top spot for customer support in the UK, Brazil, and Australia, the telecommunications sector also put in a good showing, taking first place in Mexico, Japan, and Germany and second spot in the other mentioned countries. 

When it comes to the third-best customer support service, variations appear. Consumer goods took third place in the UK, but professional services, eCommerce, food and restaurants, are all sectors that receive appreciation from our respondents in other countries.

What can SMEs learn from customer service provided by banks and telecom companies?

Financial institutions and telecommunication companies may typically receive a lot of customer enquiries. Many have developed sophisticated customer service workflows and deployed solutions to tackle these requests and keep customers engaged. Some of the ways they have done this include:

  • Monitoring end-to-end customer journeys: Identifying customer touch points and tailoring messages to engage clients at different stages in the customer journey. 
  • Combining real-time support with chatbots: Providing live chat so customers can find human support to counter the bureaucratic and impersonal feel of online processes. In addition, using chatbots for less complex issues or requests outside office hours to deliver personalised services and automated support for frequently asked questions (FAQs). 
  • Training customer services representatives in interpersonal skills: Finances and telecommunications are not easy issues to handle, Investing in customer service training for employees helps prepare frontline staff to deal with complex scenarios. 
  • Creating a knowledge base: Catering to customers who want self-service capabilities through the provision of knowledge bases, which both customers and employees can access to resolve queries. 
  • Asking for customer feedback: Many banks and telecommunications companies have check-ins at several touch points of the customer journey and take the opportunity to use surveys to ask how they can improve their services.  

The household equipment and furniture industry is lagging behind

Another point in common between the majority of surveyed countries is that the household equipment and furniture industry received the lowest rankings in four of the six surveyed countries. This included the UK, where only 4% of respondents considered this sector as the one with the best customer support. Only in Japan did the furniture and household appliance industry achieve a higher-than-average percentage, with 12% rating the support services in this sector as the best. In the remaining countries, rates ranged between 4% and 7%.

Some of the reasons for this dissatisfaction may stem from difficulties arising from returning or asking for refunds for household goods that can be difficult to transport. UK SMEs in this sector must find ways to integrate their retail point of sale (POS) systems with their CRMs to ensure their customers receive what they need in the optimal standards and their purchases are efficiently tracked in case any issues arise with them. 

UK SMEs should seek diverse ways to support local and global customers

UK SMEs looking to improve their customer service and help desk support should leverage the fact that the majority of UK customers consider their experience of support from local companies to be better than that provided by global organisations. If SMEs provide and promote personalised customer services that strengthen engagement with consumers, this will help them gain a competitive edge over larger players. Whether it is using live chat, chatbots, or other forms of communication, SMEs should focus on nurturing ties with their consumers to add value to their services. 

If UK SMEs find themselves at a stage where they are considering expanding to another market, they should carefully study preferences in these countries too. For example, our respondents from Mexico and Brazil tend to prefer the customer service offered by global companies as opposed to local ones. This may require different approaches when creating customer engagement strategies, and tools like CRM can help manage customer interactions and relationships at a larger scale. Furthermore, help desk software or translation software can also help customer support teams manage international customer requests. 

On a final note, the banking sector has stood out as one of the industries that provide customer support that consumers are satisfied with. This can likely be a result of the sector evolving to provide both traditional and online banking services and producing a shakeup that has seen banks try to gain a competitive advantage by delivering quality customer support that can increase brand loyalty while also investing in technologies to cater to these new online-only demands. UK SMEs should take note to seek new and various ways of supporting their customers.

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To collect this data, Capterra conducted an online survey of 2,388 people in Australia, Brazil, Germany, and Japan in April 2022. A further 2,005 people were surveyed in the UK and Mexico in October 2022. Of the respondents interviewed, 1,003 were from the UK, 1,002 were from Mexico, 604 were from Brazil, 614 were from Japan, 566 were from Germany, and 604 were from Australia.  

The 4,393 consumers had to fulfil the following criteria:

  • Resident in the UK, Mexico, Germany, Australia, Japan or Brazil
  • Between the ages of 18 and 65
  • Have used customer support or help desk services before