Why does UK customer service fall short of USA standards?

For all our perceived politeness, UK customer service is poor. We may be the nation of the orderly queue and the jolly good manners, but we can’t seem to get it right when it comes to service.

Did you know that UK brands lag behind their USA counterparts when it comes to customer service? That’s right: for all our British ability to stifle rage into a quiet tut and small talk our socks off, we’re still unable to produce a competitive customer experience.

This year the UK customer service score fell from 7.33 to 7.08. The USA’s score not only started higher at 7.42, but it also rose to 7.75. But why is that the case? We explore why UK customer service is lacking, and how brands can compete with companies across the pond.



Speaking the same language?

George Bernard Shaw once said, “England and America are two countries separated by the same language”. Despite all our similarities, we tend to do things differently, and customer service is no exception.

So, what separates the two great nations on a service level? Firstly, you have to consider that the shape and status of the service industry is hugely different across the UK and USA.

It’s a fact that USA employees are far better rewarded for delivering quality customer service. Service is a strong career option in the US, and one that offers much room for growth. Here in the UK, however, pursuing a career in customer service is often far from lucrative.

Let’s look at the numbers. The average British retail sales associate earns just £17,300 a year. Their average USA counterpart gets £19,500. And that’s not to mention the scope for pay rises: a retail store manager in the US earns £27,000, compared to £24,000 at home. Then there’s the tips to bear in mind: USA service workers are tipped as standard, and can earn extra cash simply with a smile and a courteous approach.

With no such rewards, is it really so surprising that UK customer service workers aren’t as motivated to go above and beyond?



Slow to adapt

You can’t simply blame people for the problem. You must also consider that the UK and USA are at different stages with their adoption of technology – and that plays a huge role in customer service.

US businesses have been quick to invest in technology that drives customer experience improvements at scale. For example, 70% of businesses in the US have live chat software available to their customers. It’s a commonplace addition to websites, and it’s become the norm for customers to get live help online.

Meanwhile, UK customer service isn’t quite so accessible. In fact, only a fifth of organisations in Europe use live chat – creating a gaping flaw in mainstream UK business comms.



Going digital

Ecommerce is booming. Online shopping is now equally as popular as in-store, and 51% of Americans cite online as their preferred way to shop. With this rise follows the need for digital service.

But email, tweets and web requests can end up going unread for days, or getting lost in bursting inboxes. As such, these methods of customer support are poor compared to live chat software. Few customers will be willing to wait a day with you if they can have their problem dealt with almost instantly elsewhere.

In the UK, there is little choice but to rely on traditional channels. That, then, is where the USA sets itself apart. With the majority of US businesses boasting a live chat channel, the customer experience is already primed for proficiency.

Customers in the USA are spoilt for choice when it comes to service channel options, and can get help whenever and wherever it’s needed. In fact, just having a live chat channel present – even if the customer doesn’t use it – sees 63% of customers willing to return to your site.



Get with the times

As most US businesses already know, a live chat channel is more than just a means for customer contact. It’s a way to stay relevant. Interaction now happens in real-time with short, quick chats dotted with emojis. With the popularity of chat-based apps such as Messenger and WhatsApp, the need for a business inspired live chat software doesn’t require much explanation.

Yet the majority of UK ecommerce based businesses are yet to evolve. Most haven’t welcomed a real-time messaging option to support their customer service, and this leads to abandoned carts, impatient customers and a bad UK customer service rating.

Plus, live chat software is something of a customer service Swiss army knife, helping support an integrated, omni-channel approach. The US is already leading the way in omni-channel, with over a quarter of retailers making it one of the top 3 priorities from as early as 2014. The UK needs to catch the last customer experience train to the present day, fast, or risk being left behind.



Don’t be left in the dark

It’s true: UK customer service is being left behind. In the fast-paced world of real-time chat, customers expect live support to be available. In the USA, the supply meets the demand, while UK customers are left in the dark.

Apprehension towards change has led UK based business to linger in the dark age of customer service. With the continued rise of online shopping, they risk falling further into obscurity as American brands offering real-time support poach their customers.

So, want to pull your socks up and become a competitive business for UK customer service? Take the leap to live chat today.



Useful links

25 benefits of live chat software

Customer communication: you’re doing it wrong

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