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Are you being served? We need better customer service

Which? magazine customer service survey brands

As part of our ‘Real Customers, Real Service’ series we’ve been investigating what makes an exceptional customer experience. What should companies do to keep their customers coming back for more?

The poet Maya Angelou wrote: ‘while people may forget what you said and did, they always remember how you made them feel’. That’s very true when it comes to customer service.

Outstanding service can leave you feeling positive, valued and likely to want to repeat the experience. Terrible customer service can leave you feeling stressed, frustrated, angry and, in many cases, never wanting that experience again.

Top big brands rated for customer service

Best and Worst Customer serviceWhen we asked thousands of Brits about the brands they rated most highly for customer service, Lush, Lakeland, First Direct and John Lewis topped our league table. Cosmetics firm Lush is the clear winner in our 2013 survey of 100 big-name brands, being the only brand to achieve an ‘excellent’ five-star rating for having knowledge and helpful staff, and for making customers feel valued.

Ryanair, TalkTalk and Npower need to pull up their socks, however: these brands limp into the bottom places of our survey. If you’re a Which? member, you’ll find the full results of our 2013 customer service survey in the October 2013 issue of Which? magazine, which can also be found online.

Top five points for good customer service

With those winners and losers ringing in your ears, here’s our advice for companies who want to inspire loyalty in their customers:

1. Exceptional customer service more than pays for itself. Happy customers are loyal customers; loyal customers are profitable customers.

2. Value your customers and they’ll value you. Treat each person as an individual. Understand what your customers want and don’t waste their time by keeping them waiting and not being able to sort things out first time.

3. Invest in your staff. Your customers are likely to judge your brand by its staff, so investing in recruitment and training will pay dividends in the long term.

4. A complaint is a gift. Senior managers need to listen to feedback from staff and customers and act on it. If things have gone wrong, see that as an opportunity for improvement. Seize the chance to recover the situation, and retain rather than lose customers.

5. Don’t rest on your laurels. Respond to changing customer demand. None of the companies that excel in our survey have done so by failing to innovate or improve. Complacency hasn’t got them there, nor will it keep them there.

What do you think of our advice for companies? And what do you think makes companies stand out for good (or bad!) customer service?

richard says:
19 September 2013

My tumble dryer wore out after only 60 years of continual service though still usable at low heat
All other appliances have never gone wrong since new – basically since 1962.
My last car needed servicing after 120.000 miles
Once complained to Sainsburys as one orange had a rotten segment replaced immediately with an apology,


richard says:
19 September 2013

oops – forgot Midland Bank didn’t answer properly – Changed Banks immediately. Apart from that – All companies I have dealt with in the last 70 years have been helpful – courteous – and polite – the only problem has been poor battery life



A hairdryer that lasts 60 years should be named and the manufacturer nominated for an award. Perhaps it had fewer hairs to dry in recent years and the low heat setting may well do the job nicely for the next 60 years.


I wouldn’t advise you to dry your hair in a tumble dryer…


Sound advice – although you could use it for a wig.
I can’t argue with any of your advice. I think customer service shows itself when you have a problem some time after a purchase. We had a set of dining furniture from John Lewis. After around 5 years a chair developed loose joints. They immediately sent someone round who took all10 away in two batches and totally rebuilt them – just in case others developed the same problem. No negotiation, just a terrific response. After 12 years a drawer runner became loose and it was not obvious how to fix it. They offered advice over the phone (which did not work) and were then prepared to send someone round at no cost to sort it – fortunately I found the way to do it. Good service like this is when you don’t have to pressure the supplier.


oops, I misread a tumble dryer as a hairdryer so my comment is not relevant.


It would keep the whole body warm in this weather.

Patrick, please delete my comment before we give people ideas.


I have had two experiences from the opposite ends of the spectrum.

When buying a new washing machine, the old one having packed up after 15 years of service, I went into the local Comet store to look at possible replacements. I asked a sales assistant for some information on the various machines but all she was interested in talking about was the need for an extended guarantee at some horrendous cost. In the end I gave up and went elsewhere.

I ordered a filing cabinet from Staples which was to be delivered on the following day before 5pm. It didn’t arrive so I ‘phoned the store to complain. The young lady who answered took some details and said she would ‘phone back, usually a coded message for ‘go away and stop bothering me!’ To my surprise, and pleasure, she called back about 5 minutes later to say that she had established what had happened and the cabinet would now be delivered at 8am the next morning and as an apology I would receive a 10% discount.

Guess which organisation I was happy to do business with in the future!