Ryanair has been rated the worst firm for customer service out of 100 popular British brands after passengers were left feeling undervalued by unhelpful staff and miserable complaints handling, new Which? research reveals.
The survey of well-known companies reveals sharp differences between sectors with airlines, telecoms and energy providers performing most poorly – and brands such as British Airways, BT and British Gas languishing near the bottom of the rankings after letting customer service standards slide in recent years.
After a difficult period for retailers and many big consumer brands, the findings suggest it is no coincidence that companies that seem to have made customer service a top priority – Clarks Shoes (82%), Next (81%) and John Lewis (80%) – have weathered the storm better than those that have appeared to treat it as an afterthought.
Meanwhile, the convenience and slick customer service often offered by AO.com (84%), Ocado (83%) and Amazon (80%) saw these online brands achieve a solid position in the rankings.
The consumer champion asked nearly 4,000 members of the public to rate how the companies make them feel, how helpful and knowledgeable their staff were, and how well they handled complaints.
Ryanair came bottom of the table, only managing a paltry customer service score of 45 per cent overall, with the lowest rating of one star in all three categories. When asked about how well the airline handles complaints, half (50%) gave it the lowest rating possible.
Presented with a choice of 50 words to describe the airline, most of the airline’s passengers opted for ‘greedy’, ‘sneaky’ and ‘arrogant’, with one going as far as to say “Ryanair seem to make things deliberately difficult in order to make more money out of their customers”.
The other airlines included in the survey fared only slightly better. British Airways (66%) found itself in 83rd place, a few spots under the highest ranking airline included in the survey, Easyjet (68%), which came in 79th place.
In 99th place, just above Ryanair, was Scottish Power (46%). The energy supplier’s customers told Which? they did not feel valued, with a third (35%) of their customers going as far as to say they found the energy supplier ‘arrogant’.
Third from the bottom was BT with a low 52 per cent score for customer service. The telecoms giant also only managed a minimum one-star rating for making customers feel valued, helpfulness of staff and efficiency resolving complaints or problems.
BT staff were considered ‘aloof’ by those surveyed and three in five (59%) described its complaints handling as ‘poor’. Five out of five of the lowest-ranked companies overall were utility firms.
Online bank First Direct took the top slot with an impressive customer service score of 89 per cent and customers who were overwhelmingly positive. Two-thirds (65%) gave it the highest rating possible for the attitude of its staff, with one customer telling Which? it is “the human touch” that sets it apart.
Lakeland (87%) was the highest-rated retailer, standing out for the attitude of its staff where it scored the full five-stars. This was reinforced by most customers opting for the word ‘helpful’ when given a list of words to describe the brand.
Sports Direct (58%) on the other hand, was rated as the worst retailer for customer service. Customers told Which? that the sporting apparel shop did not make them feel valued, earning it the lowest rating of one star in this category.
Supermarkets did well overall as a sector, with Waitrose (85%) the highest-ranking store for customer service. Shoppers also rated the staff at Aldi (81%) highly for helpfulness but Lidl (71%) struggled, with only two out of five stars for making its customers feel valued.
Harry Rose, Editor of Which? Magazine, said:
“While it’s good to see some familiar everyday brands flying the flag for great customer service, people spend a lot of money with their utility providers and on flights, so it’s disappointing to see some woeful performance across the board in those sectors.
“The best way to send a clear message to businesses about the importance of customer service is to spend your hard-earned cash with brands that make it a top priority – and don’t hesitate to complain if you feel you’ve been treated poorly.”