Bad staff attitudes account for more complaints than quality of product, report finds

- Last updated on GMT

Restaurant investor Luke Johnson argued that the way customers are treated by restaurant staff is often more important than the food
Restaurant investor Luke Johnson argued that the way customers are treated by restaurant staff is often more important than the food
Hospitality businesses across the UK are being urged to focus on improving staff attitudes in 2013 after a report has found that the majority of problems eliciting a complaint were people-related, with the quality of the product accounting for just a third of grievances.

The ‘Handle With Care’ report, produced by the Institute of Customer Service (ICS), found that the percentage of customers who experienced a problem has actually decreased from 17 per cent in January 2008 to 11.7 per cent in July 2012. But the proportion of those that went on to make a complaint rose from 72 per cent to 76 per cent in the same period.

“Our research suggests that customers are most satisfied when complaints are dealt with immediately,” said the ICS’s chief executive Jo Causon. “As a result, organisations need to ensure that all customer contacts are handled consistently well, and that customers are not passed from pillar to post.”

“The type of complaint and satisfaction with complaint handling varies significantly by sector. It’s particularly important for organisations in sectors where there tends to be a high proportion of complaints about staff competence or staff attitude to benchmark their complaint handling performance and support employees in anticipating and dealing with complaints.” 

When asked about the most annoying or frustrating service problems, customers cited ‘staff attitude’ (rated 8.5 out of 10), ‘staff competence’ (8.4) and ‘organisations not keeping promises’ (8.8). 

Silent sufferers

Despite an increasing inclination to complain among UK consumers, the report warns that there still exists a worryingly large number of ‘silent sufferers’ – customers that have reason to complain but choose not to, leaving organisations with little opportunity to resolve their issues.

Twenty-four per cent of customers who recently experienced a problem did not make a complaint about it.

Causon added: “Our research shows that customers who have a bad experience are much more likely to tell others, and to tell more people, than customers who have had a good experience.

“This means that it’s essential to try to prevent complaints occurring and, when they do occur, they need to be dealt with as quickly as possible and followed up to make sure customers feel the issue has been resolved.”

Strong customer service

Meanwhile, new figures from global market research firm ORC International have revealed that Prezzo, YO! Sushi, Nandos, Carluccio’s and Giraffe are the restaurant groups gaining the highest praise for strong customer service.

More than 1,000 consumers were surveyed about their recent restaurant experience across 13 brands, and YO! Sushi received top recommendations from its loyal customer base, with 57 per cent very likely to recommend.

Italian chain Carluccio’s was hot on the sushi chain’s heels, with a recommend score of 55 per cent. It was also came in at second place on food (60 per cent) and brand (49 per cent), and beat the competition for best value for the money, with over one third of customers rating it positively.

Of the larger high street brands, Nando’s features most prominently, rated third overall for customer satisfaction, but received top ranking for restaurant atmosphere.


With quick service restaurants, Prêt A Manger takes the top spot for efficiency of service (58 per cent), while Starbucks turns in the least impressive performance in the whole survey, coming in last in nearly every measure.

Lisa Garthside, research director at ORC International, said: “In a competitive restaurant market it is important to stand out and deliver a fantastic customer experience. We know that in tough economic times people are looking for that special experience whenever they go out and the restaurants that deliver will be the winners.

“Consistency is also vital, and Prêt A Manger’s strong performance on service is all the more impressive given the sheer volume of transactions each day.”

Improving service standards

The survey, conducted on 2,000 diners by customer insight agency SMG, found that around 60 per cent will wait longer in December for a meal than in any other month, and 55 per cent are anticipating poor service when attending Christmas meals

  • Service standards are also a particular gripe for serial restaurant investor Luke Johnson who, at the Arena Christmas Lunch​last month, told delegates that the way customers are treated by restaurant staff is often actually more important than the food.

Speaking at the Lunch, Johnson said: “It’s extraordinary how bad service can still be in Britain, even at expensive hotels and restaurants. But that’s why there remain wonderful opportunities in this sector because frankly so many of the opposition still aren’t doing their job very well.

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1 comment

This is an awesome article

Posted by Rolande Thibodeau,

Love this report

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