The best countries in Europe for customer service
- UK tops the list for customer satisfaction
- Countries with larger GDP per capita and lower unemployment rank higher
- Telecommunications and media sectors worst performing; food retail ranked highest
The UK has the highest customer satisfaction rates in Europe, according to a report by the Institute of Customer Service.
The Institute’s European Customer Satisfaction Index (ECSI) scores the UK an overall customer satisfaction rating of 76.1 - three points higher than its closest rival, Germany (73.1).
The data also shows that countries such as Germany and the UK, which have lower unemployment levels and greater GDP per capita, tended to have the best customer satisfaction scores. Conversely, those countries with higher rates of unemployment and lower GDP – such as France, Italy and Spain – all score lower for customer satisfaction.
The research, which compares levels of customer satisfaction across eight European nations – UK, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Poland, Sweden and the Netherlands - shows the UK topping the table for customer satisfaction in all six sectors surveyed, except for Transport (in which it comes joint first with Poland) and Utilities (which was topped by Germany).
UK leads the way, but ranks lowest for trust
The UK’s highest level of customer satisfaction was found in the Retail (food) sector, where it achieved its top score of 81.1 points – 5.5 points higher than the European average and 3.5 points ahead of its closest rival, Italy. It also performed particularly well in the Banking sector where the UK achieved a score of 78 points – 5.3 points above the European average and 2.2 points above Germany, which ranked second in this sector.
Although the UK leads the way when it comes to how satisfied its customers are, the ECSI data highlights building customer trust as an area for improvement. At first glance, with an 89 percent of those surveyed giving a nine or 10 out of 10 trust rating for the organisation they were scoring, the signs are positive – but this is the lowest score for trust across all of the countries covered by the research.
When it comes to other European nations, there is also a varying picture when it comes to performance and priorities.
The Index ranks France (with a score of 69) and Spain (68.2) as the lowest performers overall for customer satisfaction. Poland and Italy also performed slightly below the European average, with Poland ranking below average in all of the industry sectors apart from Transport. Banking was the top ranked sector in Germany (75.8), the only country where this was the case.
Customer priorities vary across Europe
The report also highlights European differences in customer priorities. In the UK, customers cited ease of doing business and the helpfulness of staff (in person) as two of their most important customer service priorities. In Germany, product reliability, on-time delivery and the condition of delivered goods were amongst the areas customers cared about most; and Italian customers reported that the availability of website support was of primary importance.
In terms of sectors, the Telecommunications and Media sector (68 points) was the lowest ranked sector overall, with Retail (food) the highest ranked sector across all of the nations with an overall score of 75.7 points.
Jo Causon, CEO of The Institute of Customer Service, said: “It’s encouraging to see that UK organisations are achieving higher levels of customer satisfaction compared to the rest of Europe as this demonstrates our competitiveness. However, as the data shows, this doesn’t necessarily translate into customer trust putting the onus on UK companies to look at tangible ways of building greater confidence among their customers to ensure long-term – and sustainable - loyalty.
“On the whole, the data illustrates that customer service has come of age and is now clearly linked to a country’s economic performance. If we take those countries with the lowest customer satisfaction scores, we can see that each has had its own economic and social challenges in recent times and this is clearly reflected in the customer satisfaction data. As a result, good customer service should not be seen as a ‘nice to have’ for organisations, but as a key competence and asset which can bring wider economic benefits – particularly when it comes to enhancing productivity, competitiveness, job creation and prosperity within organisations and across countries as a whole.
“I hope the ECSI report will act as a benchmark for customer satisfaction across Europe. It should give organisations that operate internationally the insight they need to tailor their approach to the needs of different consumers, and support all businesses in delivering better customer satisfaction and the wider economic benefits that accompany this.”
Read the April 2016 issue of Business Review Europe magazine.
SAS: Improving the British Army’s decision making with data
SAS’ long-standing relationship with the British Army is built on mutual respect and grounded by a reciprocal understanding of each others’ capabilities, strengths, and weaknesses. Roderick Crawford, VP and Country GM for SAS UKI, states that the company’s thorough grasp of the defence sector makes it an ideal partner for the Army as it undergoes its own digital transformation.
“Major General Jon Cole told us that he wanted to enable better, faster decision-making in order to improve operational efficiency,” he explains. Therefore, SAS’ task was to help the British Army realise the “significant potential” of data through the use of artificial intelligence (AI) to automate tasks and conduct complex analysis.
In 2020, the Army invested in the SAS ‘Viya platform’ as an overture to embarking on its new digital roadmap. The goal was to deliver a new way of working that enabled agility, flexibility, faster deployment, and reduced risk and cost: “SAS put a commercial framework in place to free the Army of limits in terms of their access to our tech capabilities.”
Doing so was important not just in terms of facilitating faster innovation but also, in Crawford’s words, to “connect the unconnected.” This means structuring data in a simultaneously secure and accessible manner for all skill levels, from analysts to data engineers and military commanders. The result is that analytics and decision-making that drives innovation and increases collaboration.
Crawford also highlights the importance of the SAS platform’s open nature, “General Cole was very clear that the Army wanted a way to work with other data and analytics tools such as Python. We allow them to do that, but with improved governance and faster delivery capabilities.”
SAS realises that collaboration is at the heart of a strong partnership and has been closely developing a long-term roadmap with the Army. “Although we're separate organisations, we come together to work effectively as one,” says Crawford. “Companies usually find it very easy to partner with SAS because we're a very open, honest, and people-based business by nature.”
With digital technology itself changing with great regularity, it’s safe to imagine that SAS’ own relationship with the Army will become even closer and more diverse. As SAS assists it in enhancing its operational readiness and providing its commanders with a secure view of key data points, Crawford is certain that the company will have a continually valuable role to play.
“As warfare moves into what we might call ‘the grey-zone’, the need to understand, decide, and act on complex information streams and diverse sources has never been more important. AI, computer vision and natural language processing are technologies that we hope to exploit over the next three to five years in conjunction with the Army.”
Fundamentally, data analytics is a tool for gaining valuable insights and expediting the delivery of outcomes. The goal of the two parties’ partnership, concludes Crawford, will be to reach the point where both access to data and decision-making can be performed qualitatively and in real-time.
“SAS is absolutely delighted to have this relationship with the British Army, and across the MOD. It’s a great privilege to be part of the armed forces covenant.”