As pandemic restrictions start to be relaxed, the subject of travel and tourism has recently hit the headlines. But just before global lockdown began in spring 2020, some fascinating research was published which revealed that customer service levels in tourism have fallen significantly across the entire sector.
The research by The Institute of Customer Service shows that customer service levels in the UK have dropped across nearly all sectors of business - and this was especially the case in travel and tourism.
The Institute’s ‘UK Customer Satisfaction Index’ showed that average levels of customer satisfaction in the tourism sector dropped by 0.8% to a score of 78.4 out of 100. The Institute’s research also found that 29% of tourism organisations’ service levels dropped by two points or more, based on its bi-annual poll of 10,000 consumers.
Which sectors and companies were best for customer service?
In the 2020 Index, the Top 10 companies for customer service were dominated by non-food retailers. John Lewis were in top spot with a score of 85.6 out of 100. The clothing retailer Next were in 3rd place. Amazon were in 5th place, and Ikea and Superdrug were in joint 7th place. Ironically, also in joint 7th place were Debenhams, who have gone out of business since the research was published.
But despite this, retail was among the sectors that have experienced the most significant drops in customer satisfaction levels, along with declines for insurance, public services, and utilities.
Across the 13 industry sectors analysed in the research, customer satisfaction levels declined for the fifth successive time. This is the longest period of decline in customer service since the Institute began tracking levels of customer service in 2008.
The research also found that 26% of customers were willing to pay more for excellent service, while 14% said they would prefer the cheapest options, even if it means sacrificing levels of service.
Which tourism companies were best for customer service?
In the 2020 Index, Premier Inn was the highest-placed holiday company in 11th place. Other tourism companies in the Top 50 included Jet2holidays, Center Parcs, P&O Cruises, Expedia, Booking.com, and Travelodge. Below are the travel and tourism companies that featured in the UK Top 50.
11th Premier Inn
34th Center Parcs
37th P&O Cruises
According to Jo Causon, Chief Executive of The Institute of Customer Service: “These figures are not a cause for celebration. This is the longest continuous run of declining customer service in the history of our index. The Index demonstrates that a number of organisations are struggling to meet customer needs in a more complex trading environment.”
Darren Bugg, Editor of The Customer Service Blog added: “It will be fascinating to see how well the tourism industry is able to bounce back from the pandemic. In particular, it will be interesting to see whether levels of customer service within tourism will suffer as a result of the massive financial ‘hit’ that the sector has suffered over the last 18 months.”
IMPORTANT RESEARCH NOTE: the Institute of Customer Service has published a more recent Customer Satisfaction Index since the research referred to in this article. However, the newer Index (2021) would not be relevant to the UK tourism sector, which has been virtually non-existent for the last 18 months. For this reason, in this article we have referred to the older 2020 Index, which was published just before the lockdown.