Welcome to the UK's leading blog on customer service, customer loyalty and customer satisfaction. The blog is written and edited by Darren Bugg, alongside a team of expert guest writers. Darren Bugg is a marketing and customer service expert with 30 years experience working at a senior level in this field. They also offer a wide variety of training courses in customer service, customer..
A brand for a company is like a reputation for a person. You earn reputation by trying to do hard things well.
Customer service shouldn't just be a department, it should be the entire company.
We don't want to push our ideas on to customers, we simply want to make what they want.
Instead of focusing on the competition, focus on the customer.
The more advocates you have, the fewer ads you have to buy.
Make the customer the hero of your story.
Always do more than is required of you.
Every contact we have with a customer influences whether or not they’ll come back. We have to be great every time or we’ll lose them.
I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.
I believe in the power of recognition and empowerment leading to great employee engagement. And employee engagement is critical to guest engagement. Employee empowerment and recognition is the core of our culture and how we achieve outstanding customer service.
Tickets have just been released for The Business Show - Europe's largest business exhibition. It includes an exciting array of guest speakers, training seminars, interactive features, and hundreds of industry leading suppliers.
The show takes place on Wednesday 27th and Thursday 28th November 2019 at Excel conference centre in London's Docklands.
Every year the Show attracts over 25,000 company owners who are aiming to improve and expand their businesses. It features about 250 seminars, 170 masterclasses, and around 350 trade exhibitors.
This year’s event features numerous well-known business people including Rachel Elnaugh (one of the original 'Dragons' from the BBC TV series 'Dragon's Den'), and the inspirational author and speaker Brad Burton who might just change your life!
The event will include numerous free masterclasses, the 'Wealth Academy', speed networking (see photo above), plus many opportunities to meet with and learn from fellow entrepreneurs.
Regular readers of this blog will know that I have a ‘healthy’ (excuse the pun) scepticism of the National Health Service (NHS). Many readers will wonder how I could possibly criticise the National Health Service in the UK. Well I’m sorry, but the NHS has many deep-rooted management problems which will never be solved while many members of the British public suffer from ‘Emperor’s New Clothes’ syndrome, saying how wonderful the NHS is publicly, and refusing acknowledge genuine criticisms, even when they are backed with empirical evidence.
If you ask someone publicly what they think of the NHS, they will usually give glowing tributes. But they are literally SCARED to say what they really think. When asked in an anonymous survey, the British public give a totally different picture of what they really think to the NHS.
Newly published research shows that public satisfaction with the NHS is actually at its lowest level for a decade, despite the UK Government’s promised £20.5 billion per year funding boost.
Only half of the people surveyed (53%) said they were happy with how the NHS is run, the lowest level since 2007. It is 16% lower than in 2010, when the previous government’s austerity programme began.
Satisfaction with General Practitioner (GP) services has also fallen to its lowest level. Fewer than two-thirds (63%) of people in Britain said they were happy with their GP, while 24% said they were dissatisfied. Patient frustration with lengthening waits for GP or hospital appointments is the main reason for the increasingly widespread disillusionment. But about half of people in Britain also believe the NHS has too few staff and too little money to provide a decent service.
The research was carried out in the British Social Attitudes Survey, carried out by the National Centre for Social Research. The NHS experts who analysed the results said they were confused about why satisfaction with the running of the NHS continued to decline in 2018, given the extra money the Government promised last June as a ‘gift’ to mark its 70th birthday on 5th July.
“We didn’t see the ‘birthday bounce’ that you might have expected in satisfaction,” said Ruth Robertson, a senior fellow at the King’s Fund, which undertook the analysis alongside the Nuffield Trust.
She continued: “Despite the outpouring of public affection around the NHS’s 70th birthday and the funding boost, public satisfaction with how the NHS is run now stands at its lowest level in over a decade.”
The results are based on responses by 3,000 people in England, Scotland and Wales when asked about the NHS and social care. The interviews were carried out between July and October 2018 and the results were published last week.
“The findings show the inevitable consequence of starving the NHS of funding for the best part of a decade,” said Niall Dickson, the chief executive of the NHS Confederation, which represents NHS organisations. “We should be under no illusion about the scale of the task we face to restore public confidence in the health service.”
Asked why they were dissatisfied with the NHS, 53% said: “It takes too long to get a GP or hospital appointment.” A similar number (52%) cited “not enough NHS staff” - while 49% said that the government “doesn’t spend enough money on the NHS.”
However, the survey also brought some good news for the NHS. A record 70% of people said they were satisfied with hospital outpatient services. In addition, 63% said they were happy with in-patient care, the highest number since 1993.
Quality of NHS care is the main reason people cited for being satisfied with the NHS. In the survey, 71% of respondents identified that as their main reason. The other sources of satisfaction are that care is free at the point of use (62%) and that there is a good range of services and treatments available (46%).
What are our views at The Customer Service Blog?
All of these patient satisfaction statistics need to be taken with a huge pinch of salt. And all the negative comments about the new £20.5 billion per-year funding need to be treated with caution, as they are clearly being made by people with a political agenda.
It’s surely obvious that it will take several years before this new funding (which was only announced nine months ago) actually results in an increase in patient satisfaction. The so-called ‘experts’ who mention this factor are playing a political game by implying that the government has failed to improve satisfaction with the NHS.
It's almost as if some of these ‘experts’ are trying to play down the new funding for political reasons (i.e. they don’t like a Tory government) rather than welcoming the massive boost to NHS spending. After all, welcoming the new money would, by implication, be like giving ‘praise’ to a government that they hate.
This view is backed by Professor John Appleby, the chief economist of the Nuffield Trust, who recently stated that public satisfaction would improve over the next few years as the new funding starts to filter through.
And NHS England also stressed the positive findings. According to an NHS spokesperson: “For the third year in a row, public satisfaction with the quality of NHS care has improved and satisfaction with inpatient services is now at its highest level since 1993. The results as a whole understandably reflect a health service still under pressure.”
Although the new money is very welcome, and will make a real difference in the long term, the real problem with the NHS is being ignored by politicians on both sides of the political spectrum. The NHS is a very badly managed organisation. It is wasteful, very inefficient, and in many cases run by people who shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near a hospital. It’s a simple equation: bad management = bad service.
The people in charge of the NHS are often more interested in protecting their own cushy well-paid jobs than in improving efficiency and using innovative methods to improve the standards of patient care.
That is the real problem with the NHS. Yes, lack of funding continues to be a problem. And yes, the new money promised by the Government will help. But ultimately, bad management is the real problem facing the NHS, and no amount of extra money is going to solve that.
In several previous articles on this site, I have explained the distinction between customer loyalty, customer satisfaction, and customer service. It's unfortunate that many businesses still don't really understand the difference between them, and worse still, they don't understand the significance of treating them differently.
Very often the words ‘loyalty’, ‘satisfaction’, and ‘service’ are used interchangeably by business owners when they are referring to the relationship they have with their customers. This is a big mistake because a company could give exceptional customer service, but not have loyal customers. Or it could have a high level of customer satisfaction even though it is not necessarily offering good service. And these days, a company can have very loyal customers even though these people are not satisfied at all - and the service level provided could also be very poor!
If you don't believe me, then think about the banks. It is an often quoted (and factually correct) statement that within a person's lifetime, they are statistically more likely to get divorced than to change their bank. Yet most high street banks consistently score very low in customer satisfaction surveys. Speaking in general terms, banks tend to have a very high degree of loyalty but a low degree of customer satisfaction. And many people (myself included) would also argue that most banks also offer pretty dire customer service!
Indeed, research into customer loyalty within UK banking revealed that 80% of dissatisfied customers said they intended to change banks in the future, but only 10% actually did so (Haurant, 2004).
So customer satisfaction doesn’t always result in higher loyalty, and conversely, customer dissatisfaction does not always lead to a reduction in loyalty.
Take for example the low-cost airline Ryanair. As mentioned in other articles on this website, Ryanair have an appalling record for customer service and customer satisfaction. In fact at times they've (bizarrely) even played on this poor record to generate publicity! Their CEO Michael O’Leary is a master of getting publicity from his verbal ‘gaffes’ that come across as accidental, but are probably more deliberate than people actually realise.
(Suggesting that passengers should pay to use the toilet during flights is an obvious example of one of O’Leary’s ‘accidentally deliberate’ gaffes which sounds like bad customer service, but is really intended to generate PR coverage).
Yet despite their reputation for poor service, Ryanair has got some very loyal customers and have grown from virtually nothing, to a very successful international airline in the space of just a few decades.
Customer loyalty is incredibly complex and is linked to many other factors outside of the quality of customer service or levels of customer satisfaction. And it goes without saying that one of the most obvious factors is price. Customers might say they are very satisfied with a transaction, but this might only be because they are happy with the low price, not the level of service that they have experienced.
You only have to look at the two cut price supermarkets Aldi and Lidl (that usually score quite highly in customer satisfaction surveys) to see how it is possible to offer poor service but to still keep your customers satisfied on the basis of low prices. And of course Ryanair mentioned earlier, follow the same principle.
And this principle works in reverse as well. With the rising use of internet price comparison sites over the last decade, many companies are now offering good service, resulting in high levels of customer satisfaction, and still have low levels of customer loyalty. The insurance industry is a good example of this. The level of customer complaints and customer dissatisfaction within the insurance market is much lower than the levels of dissatisfaction within the banking industry. Yet it is common for people to change their house or car insurance provider virtually every year, even when they have been very satisfied with the service.
So if you are a business owner who cares about the relationship you have with your customers, which of the three elements are most important? Customer service, customer satisfaction, or customer loyalty?
In the short term, customer service is king. Good customer service - alongside good prices - are the only factors that you can use to influence the level of your customers' satisfaction.
And customer satisfaction then forms one of the building blocks towards customer loyalty, although as I have illustrated above, customer satisfaction is not the only factor in determining how loyal a customer is going to be.
Research by Loveman (1998) indicated a strong link between satisfaction and loyalty, and Chong et al. (1997) argued that customer satisfaction is the most important (but not only) factor in predicting levels of loyalty. But a common misconception is to think that customer satisfaction will always automatically equate to customer loyalty and vice versa. Reichheld (2001) stresses that customer satisfaction is only one of several factors that helps to create customer loyalty. Reichheld’s research suggests that only 30% to 70% of ‘satisfied’ customers are also ‘loyal’ customers.
This view is supported by Jones and Sasser (1995) who state that “merely satisfying customers that have the freedom to make choices is not enough to keep them loyal.”
Other authors suggest that supplementary factors are required to build a loyal relationship including ‘trust’, ‘commitment’, ‘fairness’ and ‘symmetry’ (Peppers and Rogers, 2004). Indeed in certain industries, customer satisfaction has become virtually an essential requirement for all suppliers, meaning that a business providing customer satisfaction no longer gains any competitive advantage over its rivals. So in these circumstances, customer satisfaction only leads to parity with the competition, not a competitive advantage over them.
In the long term, if you are a business owner then customer loyalty is far more important than customer satisfaction or customer service. The American author Jeffrey Gitomer (1998) once asked the question “which would you rather have: 1,000 satisfied customers or 1,000 loyal customers?”
Purely from the point of view of business survival, the answer is obvious.
Ask yourself this question: What is the point in providing exceptional customer service and having high levels of customer satisfaction if your customers aren't loyal to you, and are prepared to switch to one of your competitors at the drop of a hat?
I'm not arguing that customer satisfaction and customer service aren't important. Obviously they are incredibly important. But I want to stress that customer service and customer satisfaction do not have any importance in their own right as stand-alone items. Their only importance to a business is in relation to how they impact on long term customer loyalty.
And as I explain in my forthcoming book The Loyalty Gap, customer loyalty is something that is far more complex than most business owners actually realise.
Lao Tzu was an ancient Chinese philosopher and writer. He is reputed to be the author of the Tao Te Ching and the founder of Taoism (pronounced 'dowism') a philosophy that emphasises doing what is natural and 'going with the flow' in accordance with the Tao (which is translated as the 'way') a cosmic force which flows through all things on earth.
“The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”
“Knowing others is intelligence; knowing yourself is true wisdom. Mastering others is strength; mastering yourself is true power.”
“Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don't resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.”
“The truth is not always beautiful, nor beautiful words the truth.”
“When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be.”
“Time is a created thing. To say 'I don't have time' is like saying, 'I don't want to'.”
“The best fighter is never angry.”
“A man with outward courage dares to die; a man with inner courage dares to live.”
“Care about what other people think and you will always be their prisoner.”
“Silence is a source of great strength.”
“To lead people walk behind them.”
“Kindness in words creates confidence. Kindness in thinking creates profoundness. Kindness in giving creates love.”
“Respond intelligently even to unintelligent treatment”
“A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves.”
“Be careful what you water your dreams with. Water them with worry and fear and you will produce weeds that choke the life from your dream. Water them with optimism and solutions and you will cultivate success. Always be on the lookout for ways to turn a problem into an opportunity for success. Always be on the lookout for ways to nurture your dream.”
Metro Bank has taken top spot in an official survey of customers' satisfaction with their banks, with the Royal Bank of Scotland ranked bottom. First Direct, who previously held the top spot have moved down into second place.
The rankings are published every six months by the UK's competition body. Banks must prominently display the results in branches, on websites and apps, with the aim to encourage competition on customer service. The rankings are drawn from the views of 16,000 people (1,000 from each bank), who were asked how likely they would be to recommend their account provider to friends and family.
For personal banking, Metro Bank - which started operating in the UK in 2010 - was the most popular. An incredible 83% of Metro Bank’s personal customers said they would recommend the bank to their family and friends. Despite a difficult few months in terms of its share price, but was second in the customer satisfaction ratings six months ago and has now taken top spot.
A Metro Bank spokesman said: "Our offering is simple. We believe in providing the very best in service and convenience for both consumers and businesses, and this latest set of results speaks for itself."
The Royal Bank of Scotland was bottom of the 16 banks on the list. On the day that its parent company RBS announced a doubling in annual profits, the survey revealed that fewer than half (47%) of Royal Bank of Scotland personal current account customers said they would recommend the bank.
Among the various categories, TSB (which suffered a major IT failure that led to the departure of its chief executive last year) finished bottom of online and mobile banking services. Clydesdale Bank was bottom on the ranking of overdraft services. HSBC-owned First Direct (which has no branches at all) was top of both these categories.
What about business banking?
Nearly 20,000 small businesses were also asked about customer service at banks, resulting in a ranking of 14 banks. Handelsbanken from Sweden was ranked top for business banking with an 85% satisfaction rating, and a particularly strong showing in the relationship and account management category (91%). Metro Bank was second and Santander was third. Again TSB were judged poorly, and were bottom of the list of business banks.
Andrea Coscelli, chief executive of the Competition and Markets Authority, which published the results, said: "We introduced this survey last August so that people can see exactly how well banks are treating their customers. If people are unhappy with the customer service they are currently getting, I would encourage them to look at the results and think about switching to a better performing bank."
Seth Godin is a best-selling author, entrepreneur, speaker and educator. In addition to launching one of the most popular blogs in the world, he has written 18 best-selling books, including ‘The Dip’, ‘Linchpin’, ‘Purple Cow’, ‘Tribes’, and ‘What To Do When It's Your Turn’. By focusing on everything from effective marketing and leadership, to the spread of ideas and change, Goddin has motivated and inspired millions of business people around the world.
In 2013, Goddin was one of just three professionals inducted into the American Direct Marketing Hall of Fame, and in 2018 he was inducted into the American Marketing Hall of Fame. His book ‘Free Prize Inside’ was a Forbes Business Book of the Year in 2004, while ‘Purple Cow’ sold over 150,000 copies in more than 23 print runs in its first two years.
Here are my 18 favourite quotes by Seth Goddin on the subjects of business, marketing, leadership and inspiration.
“The job isn’t to catch up to the status quo; the job is to invent the status quo.”
“The challenge isn’t in perfecting your ability to know when to start and when to stand by. The challenge is getting into the habit of starting.”
“Don’t find customers for your products, find products for your customers.”
“Marketing done right (is) where the marketer changes the product, not the ads.”
“Don’t try to make a product for everybody, because that is a product for nobody.”
“We’ve greatly exaggerated the risk of sinking, without celebrating the value of swimming.”
“How dare you settle for less when the world has made it so easy for you to be remarkable.”
“Quitting is not the same as failing.”
“The cost of being wrong is less than the cost of doing nothing.”
“Courage is the willingness to speak the truth about what you see and to own what you say.”
"Be genuine. Be remarkable. Be worth connecting with."
"All the creativity books in the world aren't going to help you if you're unwilling to have lousy, lame, and even dangerously bad ideas."
“The best the timid can hope for is to be unnoticed. Criticism comes to those who stand out.”
“The secret to being wrong isn’t to avoid being wrong. The secret is to being willing to be wrong.”
"If it scares you, it might be a good thing to try."
“Change almost never fails because it's too early. It almost always fails because it's too late.”
“If failure is not an option, then neither is success.”
Regular readers will know that I am not a fan of the two cut-price German supermarkets, Aldi and Lidl, that have become so popular in the UK recently. Well at least I’m not a fan of their customer service, even if they do offer lower prices than the so-called ‘big four’ supermarkets (Tesco, Sainsburys, Asda and Morrisons).
Given how critical I have been of them, you might wonder why I still bother visiting either of these supermarkets at all. And to be totally honest, the only reason I still use either of them is for convenience, because there happens to be a branch of both Aldi and a Lidl quite close to where I live. And despite the fact that they have both got dreadful customer service, I have to confess that sometimes it is just easier to use them if you just want a few cheap items and don't want the hassle of having to drive further for just a few groceries.
I visit my local Lidl store about once a fortnight, and on at least half of my visits I experience some kind of customer service problem, either related to long queues, incorrect prices, rude staff, shortage of stock, or numerous other service issues that seem to crop up.
And again today, for the sixth time within the last year, I was overcharged for an item which had got one price listed on the shelf, and another price appearing on my till receipt.
For some reason, I have never been under charged at Lidl. When they make a mistake, it is always overcharging. I've literally lost count of the number of times I’ve been overcharged at Lidl.
Of course this can happen anywhere. It's happened to me at all the major supermarkets at some point in my life. But it is much less common to be overcharged at any of the ‘big four' supermarkets. And even when it does happen at a shop like Tesco or Sainsburys, it is very easy to resolve the situation simply by going to the customer service desk where you get an instant refund, without quibble.
In fact in the past Asda even gave you the product for free, and also a refund on top of this, as a way of thanking you for pointing out the error to them. Now that is really excellent customer service.
It’s not the problem that matters - it’s the solution
In customer service issues, it’s not always the problem that matters so much as how the company solves it. I could almost forgive Lidl for making these constant mistakes if they made it easy to resolve the issue and get a refund. But they don't. Almost inevitably, when you have been overcharged at Lidl, you have to wait ages for a till operator to become free to sort out the problem for you. They then put out a call for the manager to authorise a refund, and he or she is invariably on their lunch break or busy in the stockroom. (Or maybe they are intentionally hiding from the customers?)
If I was being cynical, I’d suggest that Lidl sometimes deliberately overcharge people and then make it really difficult to get a refund, so that customers just don’t bother asking for their money back. Lidl can then recoup some of the money they have lost by charging such cheap prices in the first place!!
I’m not suggesting that Lidl deliberately price their items incorrectly to blatantly rip off their customers. But what I think they do is have ‘special offers’ on products (which are listed on the shelf) but then they are deliberately very slow to change the shelf price back to the correct price after the offer has ended.
And then with a total lack of staff on the tills, and long queues of customers waiting to be served, it becomes very time consuming and embarrassing to try to ask for a refund. Well that’s my theory, anyway.
So with all of this in mind, last week I gave a lecture to my postgraduate management students in which we covered the subject of a company’s ‘mission statement’ and ‘vision statement’.
And out of interest, I looked up the vision statement of Lidl and discovered that it is:
“To enhance the lives of our customers, by providing quality products at market leading value, whilst ensuring that customer satisfaction is at the heart of everything we do.”
And to be totally honest, I just don’t believe them. If I was to re-write the Lidl vision statement to make it more ‘honest’, then I would put:
“To expand rapidly in the UK and increase our market share by offering little choice of products and lower prices than other supermarkets. This will be achieved by cutting staffing costs and giving only very basic customer service.”
That doesn’t sound as good, does it? But it’s far closer to the truth of what Lidl are really doing at the moment. And if that suits them, then that’s fine with me. Because it’s quite possible to base an entire business strategy around low prices and poor customer service if that’s what you want to do.
But the problems come later on when your competitors start a price war. How can you compete with them? Your prices are already cut to the bone, so you can’t lower them any further. And your customers prefer the much nicer experience of shopping at a place like Tesco which has a vast product range, far better customer service, shorter queues, and lots of other added customer benefits like loyalty cards, a subsidised café, and plenty of staff available around the store to help and advise you.
The truth is that cheap prices can only take you so far in business. Customer loyalty that is based around low prices is not real ‘loyalty’ and it is not sustainable. Sooner or later your competitors will match your low prices, and if your competitors are known for better customer service, then your company will be in deep trouble. In the long-term, genuine sustainable customer loyalty cannot be achieved by lower prices alone. Giving exceptional customer service will always win out in the end.
I was watching TV with my partner a few nights ago when one of the new Lloyds Bank adverts came on. If you are a reader in the UK then you will probably have seen it. It features a group of people from some remote village running to their local beach to watch a group of black horses run past.
At the end of the advert a cute young girl starts to stroke one of the horses and smiles into the camera. This is supposed to create a quintessentially British atmosphere, but I wonder how many viewers realise that it was actually filmed in New Zealand.
I commented to my partner that I thought this was a really stupid TV advert as it had absolutely no message or purpose, yet Lloyds Bank has been plugging this advert repeatedly on TV for the last few weeks. It's getting so boring.
But I think I've now just worked out why Lloyds Bank has decided to develop the type of campaign that attempts to create a subconscious 'feel good' atmosphere without actually saying anything at all about the bank itself.
I think the rationale behind this type of vague ‘say nothing’ advertising, is because the banks realise that whatever they say in their marketing materials, they will just face a barrage of criticism from people who are still angry about their unethical behaviour which indirectly resulted in the global economic crash of 2008.
So, with this in mind, it's just easier for banks to create vague awareness-raising marketing campaigns with obscure imagery that makes you feel good about the bank at an emotional level, without actually promoting any message about the bank itself or its products. In fact, this is exactly what the tobacco industry did for several years leading up to the ban on tobacco advertising in the UK in 2003. In other words, the less you say, the better.
So what about HSBC?
I personally think HSBC has made a massive mistake in launching a new advertising campaign which does the exact opposite to the Lloyds campaign, giving a strong message that many customers are interpreting as being 'politically biased'.
The new HSBC campaign (which includes billboards, press adverts and TV commercials) claims the UK "is not an island" and then goes on to talk about all the ways that Britain as a country is influenced by other cultures from around the world. Hmmm...interesting.
The TV advert, featuring British comedian Richard Ayoade, ends with the strap-line "together we thrive". In normal times this phrase would be regarded as almost meaningless. But thousands of people have complained about it on social media, claiming the adverts are intended to be ‘anti-Brexit’. And the advertising agency behind the campaign - J Walter Thompson - has amazingly almost confirmed this by saying the adverts are in response to the "current atmosphere" and to remind people that we are all global citizens "whatever the political climate".
If that’s not a political statement, then what is!?!
One social media user questioned whether HSBC risked "alienating a large number of potential customers" with this new campaign. And I would agree with them. Regardless of whether there was any political intention, in the current febrile climate within the UK, any advertising campaign that focuses on ‘internationalism’ and relationships with other countries is going to be interpreted by the public as being political, regardless of whether this was intended.
But perhaps even more damaging than the political aspects of the campaign, these new adverts put HSBC at risk of being accused of hypocrisy, as was perfectly summed up by the well-known journalist and broadcaster Tim Montgomerie on Twitter.
In his words: “We are an island actually - full of villages and towns your bank deserted; of cleaners you underpaid; and of money laundering and other laws you bent. Brexit was a response to the economy you helped decimate. Thanks for the lecture, but we’ll manage without it.”
There is no doubt that some HSBC customers will love this advertising campaign. But if their customer base reflects the country as a whole (as seen in the EU referendum) then around half of them will absolutely hate it.
HSBC has taken a massive risk in their new advertising campaign. Perhaps they should have taken a lesson from the Lloyds Bank horses running across an empty beach. Sometimes a boring and meaningless ‘feel good’ marketing campaign is exactly what customers want to see.
A survey of 8,000 air passengers by the consumer organisation 'Which' has revealed the least liked airline in the UK. And it is the same company that has won this dubious ‘award’ for six years in a row!
The Which survey of airline passengers ranked Ryanair at the bottom of 19 carriers flying from the UK. The UK's other large airlines, Easyjet and British Airways were ranked at 11th and 15th in the survey. Easyjet beat British Airways for food and drink, customer service and value for money, but both airlines received low ratings for seat comfort.
Ryanair had a bad year last year. They not only experienced strike action in 2018, but there were also many issues with cancelled flights (with the company refusing to offer passengers compensation). In addition, Ryanair annoyed and confused their customers by introducing new baggage rules no less than three times!
The airline also left passengers angry with its boarding processes, seat comfort, food and drink offering, and cabin environment. In fact, according to Which "thousands of respondents" said they would never fly with Ryanair again. When asked in the survey who they would never fly with again, 70% of respondents said Ryanair!
The top five airlines in the survey were the little known Aurigny Air Service, followed by Swiss Airlines, Jet2, and Norwegian/Dutch carrier KLM.
Are Ryanair really that bad?
Despite being voted the worst airline in the UK for six years running, Ryanair still predicts it will carry 141 million passengers this year.
Independent aviation consultant Chris Tarry claims that despite the low satisfaction ratings, customers were still happy to fly with Ryanair. According to him: "Ryanair still represents great value for a huge amount of people. What they receive is what they expect." Mr Tarry also said that the airline had endured "a tough year" but still generates "huge amounts of cash” and that “painful lessons have been learnt."
A Ryanair spokesperson said: "Ryanair passenger numbers have grown by 80% in the past six years and the website Ryanair.com has become the world's most visited airline website.”
So what is going on in the minds of airline customers? How can Ryanair be so financially successful when they are consistently voted the most disliked airline in the country?
The answer is simple really. Just because customers dislike a particular company, it doesn’t mean that they won’t do business with that company. This is because other factors come into play aside from customer dissatisfaction.
The classic example is that of banks. Research has shown that customer dissatisfaction with banks does not always lead to a reduction in customer loyalty. People’s reluctance to change banks (despite poor satisfaction levels) is a good example of how customers sometimes remain loyal, despite being dissatisfied. Indeed, research into customer loyalty in banking revealed that 80% of dissatisfied customers said they intended to change banks, but only 10% were expected to actually do so (Haurant, 2004).
Other research by Reichheld (1996) suggests that some dissatisfied customers may choose to remain loyal to a company simply because they don’t expect to get any better service, even if they did change.
Then, when you factor in the consistently low prices offered by Ryanair, it doesn’t seem so strange that airline passengers are prepared to put up with poor (sometimes terrible) customer service in exchange for a large saving in the cost of their journey.
As mentioned previously in this blog, customer satisfaction and customer service are not the same thing. And customer behaviour is not driven purely by levels of satisfaction, or in the case of Ryanair, the level of dissatisfaction.
But the one thing that Ryanair would do well to remember is that if a company has consistently low levels of customer satisfaction, then they have to give customers another reason to buy from them. And if this means cutting prices, then they are at risk of other competitors entering the market that offer both low prices AND good customer service.