Service with a smile – a shout-out to companies giving the best customer service

We Brits may have a reputation for politeness and avoiding ‘a fuss’, but YouGov research from August 2016 states that 56% of Brits say that just two bad experiences would result in them never using a company again. But can you avoid bad customer service in the first place? Using research by the Institute for Customer Service*, we've rounded up a few of the companies that score highest for customer service in the UK, so you can deal directly with the best.

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Amazon – top for customers (and their cats)

Research by the Institute for Customer Service (ICS)* puts Amazon right at the top of the UK’s best customer service list. In the words of CEO Jeff Bezos: “We’re not competitor obsessed, we’re customer obsessed”.

And it’s not just lip service, either. Over and above customer-focused innovations like the Kindle and Amazon Prime, the company ensures all its managers spend at least two days working in a customer call centre. And it’s a strategy that certainly seems to be working.

Just ask Molly the cat, whose humans ordered toys for their pet’s birthday, only to find the order had been posted in an envelope rather than a box. Sensing Molly’s dismay, her owner sent a quick, light-hearted tweet to Amazon customer service. Without hesitation, the company dispatched the gift of Molly’s dreams – an empty cardboard box. Feline faith in humanity restored. Amazon customer service team, we salute you.

Waitrose – putting the super in supermarket

Whatever your perception of Waitrose, it was the highest ranking food retailer in the same ICS research from 2016 . A real all-rounder for service, store environment and produce, John Lewis’s food stores are owned by the staff through an employee-ownership scheme, which means they also share in the profits.

If that feelgood factor isn’t enough to get you shopping there, they also rack up Brownie points for their MyWaitrose loyalty programme (which lets you choose discounts on specific products you use a lot). MyWaitrose card holders also get free hot drinks and newspapers (when they purchase a few groceries too), and have the option to skip checkout queues with the stores’ ‘scan as you shop’ service (taking the ‘wait’ OUT of Waitrose!).

"Over half a million UK households have already switched their bills to Utility Warehouse"

Utility Warehouse – power to the people

Utility WHO-house? If you haven’t heard of these guys yet, their ranking as the top utility company in the ICS research means they warrant a closer look. Put simply, the company which calls itself ‘The Discount Club’) enables customers to combine their energy, home phone, broadband and mobile services all under one bill – negotiated by Utility Warehouse.

According to the website, over half a million UK households have already switched their bills to Utility Warehouse, which is even more impressive when you consider that they don’t advertise and all customers come to them through a referral. With Cashback on everyday shopping and an award-winning call centre among their claims, it’s hard to overlook this relatively new kid on the energy block.

Virgin Atlantic – going a long way for travellers

In travel terms, Mr Branson’s airline flies highest in the research (and is joint 9th across all sectors). The feel-good stories speak for themselves, like the time a UK couple accidentally booked a flight to Las Vegas from Birmingham, Alabama instead of Birmingham, West Midlands. When the tale went viral, Virgin Atlantic dipped into their ‘Just Because’ fund and gave the couple a free five-star trip.

A PR stunt, you say? Well, maybe. But still a great result for the customer. And it takes more than tokenism to score so high in customer service research. So what’s the secret? In a 2015 interview with Forbes magazine, Branson himself summed it up: “Anyone can buy an airplane and we all buy planes from the same manufacturers. If you fly on a Virgin plane… you know you’re going to have a completely different experience.

We don’t know about “anyone can buy a plane” *checks account balance*, but it seems the mood lighting, leather seats, newer planes and entertainment systems sit fairly well with Virgin Atlantic customers.

Premier Inn – service while you sleep

Looking for a peaceful night? Rest assured when you stay at Premier Inn, which came out top for tourism customer service in the ICS research – ranking higher than many more expensive hotel chains.

It’s the only hotel chain in the UK to offer a 100% money-back ‘Good Night Guarantee’ if guests aren’t happy with their stay, although their customer service score suggests it’s not often required. The hotels also came out strong for cleanliness and value for money in a 2015 survey by Which?, and offer lovely little options like a choice of firm or soft pillows. Definitely worth checking out (and checking IN) next time you planning a break.

Giffgaff – where the customers look after the customers

Making a move with your mobile contract? For telecomms, Giffgaff tops the leader board, and its community-led customer service may well be the key.

The network itself uses O2 infrastructure (O2’s the parent company), but their customer service process is pretty unique. Instead of using a call centre, customers post questions and queries to the existing member community through online forums. In theory, the company expected that real customers who use the service every day would be best-placed to support their peers. In practice, it seems they were right.

But the brand doesn’t rely on community spirit alone. Members of the community earn points every time they support other members, and are rewarded via a PayBack scheme (they claim to have paid over £11 million to members already – kerching!). And there are other nice touches too, like monthly texts to tell you how you could save on your Giffgaff package. But hey, don’t take our word for it – pop online and ask an existing member!

B – the bright spark with big ideas

OK, we didn’t make the list this time – B was still a baby when the research was done. But we’re growing up fast and hope to make the league soon, which is why we’re keeping a close eye on the top scorers.

If you have a B account and have ideas or suggestions to make our service better, use our feedback form to tell us . It’d be great to hear from you.

*A bit about the ICS research

The UK Customer Satisfaction Index (UKCSI) is the national measure of customer satisfaction, based on a six-monthly online survey of consumers. The Institute of Customer Service asks more than 10,000 Brits to assess their experience of individual organisations they have dealt with in the previous three months, rating the companies on things like professionalism, quality and efficiency, timeliness, problem solving and complaint handling.

This blog is a bit of fun and not intended to influence your decisions in any way. The content of the blog is reliable at the time of publishing, but we can’t guarantee that it is neither error nor omission free, beyond our knowledge. The links are there for you to explore if you wish, but we don’t have any connection with the third party sites, nor responsibility for them or their content.