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Sector Spotlight: UK Retail Customer Satisfaction Benchmark Data

January 8th 2018

Comparing customer satisfaction scores across top brands in online, premium and supermarket retail

New data from TTi Global Research’s latest benchmarking survey brings to light interesting insights across the retail sphere.

We’ve distilled customer satisfaction research from online retail, premium retailers and supermarkets into this unique report – the latest in our Sector Spotlight series.

Focusing on two major players from each retail subset - Amazon and eBay inonline retail; high street retailers, M&S and John Lewis; and supermarket giants, Sainsbury’s and Tesco – we compare the customer interactions that most frustrate and delight, and what retailers can do to address problems and increase customer loyalty.

 6 big name retail brands - retail benchmarking survey

What can online retailers learn from physical stores - and vice versa?

Generally, the more effort the customer has to make, the lower their satisfaction. Our benchmarking survey compared interactions across a range of sectors, and for comparison, here are the best and worst scorers for customer effort:

Restaurants – this sector had the lowest customer effort score at 4.0 out of 10.  Not too surprising, given that customers are waited on, and the very nature of most restaurants is giving the customer as little to do as possible.

Mobile telecoms – This sector scored the highest for customer effort, at 6.9 out of 10. In a competitive market, to keep tariffs low, the onus is placed on the customer to work harder for resolution to problems, upgrading their phones, and changing tariffs, for example.

Retail sits in the middle of the scale, with online retail at 5.2 / 10 and physical retail at 6.1 / 10. The online side of retail has made it their business to create smooth, customer-delighting interactions, with easy-to-use interfaces and fast self-serve functionality. The high street shops for those same brands struggle with reducing customer effort, with consumers citing the behaviour and communication of in-store and checkout staff to be their greatest bugbear.

There is still room for improvement for online retailers, however. Consumers stated that they want to see refund systems improved – in fact, this had the lowest customer satisfaction score of any retail interaction, both online and physical.

 Average overall customer satisfaction by retail subset

It seems that e-stores and their physical counterparts excel in one significant area: store layout and clear pricing scored 9.1 (online) and 9.2 (physical) out of 10. We tend to see online retailers mimicking supermarket or department store layouts in their site structure, with products grouped according to “aisles” or types. This “don’t make me think” approach clearly works for consumers, and they expect to see e-tailers and high street stores following convention.

How sentiment provides deeper insights for retailers

What’s different about the customer satisfaction benchmarking survey from TTi Global Research is that, unlike other consumer surveys, it records sentiment (qualitative data) as well as using a “How do you rate X” (quantitative) system. It then creates scores from those sentiments that enables us to use a customer’s actual experiences with a brand to support their general satisfaction ratings. When we take this insight to companies, they immediately see what needs to change across the consumer journey to improve satisfaction and loyalty.

Here are some examples of real comments from the survey:


“Refunded my money when the seller refused to.”

“The advice I was given was okay, but the customer service agent wasn't very well informed on the subject I wanted to know about.”


“Very simple to order online, good variety of products, good prices and delivered next day.”

“My parcel was taking much longer than expected to arrive and the member of staff that was helping me was amazing and made it quick and easy for me to track my parcel.”

John Lewis

“The staff who helped was very friendly, didn't just check warehouse stock availability but also shops all over the country and requested for the stores to ring me.”

“Whole experience has been awful. Dishwasher broke down and was unrepairable. We are still waiting four weeks later for it to be sorted.”


“The staff made it so easy to return the item and refund my money left me feeling what a good company they are.”

“It is very difficult sometimes to find a member of staff - particularly in the bigger stores.”


“The member of staff I spoke to was apologetic about my problem and gave me a voucher without any hassle.”

“Items always out of stock. This was a frequent occurrence, and I kept on complaining about this. Obviously no notice was taken of any of anything I said. I warned them that they would lose a customer, and they did.”


“Staff were very helpful and patient, especially as I was shopping with 3 children. The staff are so friendly and chatty.”

“Refused to take Clubcard voucher - their error.”

How third-party services impact customer satisfaction

Another factor that retailers need to consider when tackling any customer satisfaction project is to impact of third-party services. How a consumer feels about the ordering process, the product, the customer service staff, is just as influential to their perception of that brand as the delivery service or the merchant that merely uses the platform to sell products. This extends into physical retail too, for example, with a supermarket’s in-store cafe, or the product quality of partner branded items in a department store.

Here are some cases in point that this qualitative customer research uncovered:

“The rating for Amazon is 10 but my dissatisfaction is with Hermes because they never attempt to deliver the parcels at my address, they always leave them at a business nearby without telling me or asking me.”

“I paid for my parcel which came with a lifetime warranty. I emailed the buyer when the charger broke and they didn't respond so then I emailed Amazon and they said that it wasn't their problem!”

“Took crockery away before we had finished our meal/drinks.”

“Food in both cafe and shop are great quality.”

Your employees are your greatest advocates and your worst enemies

What we’ve uncovered in the data is that the most consumer dissatisfaction arises when interacting with employees. But staff were also the most frequently praised aspect of a company.

When staff are generous with their time, knowledgeable, and sympathetic, they cause customer satisfaction scores to skyrocket. Conversely, rude and unhelpful staff, and being unable to resolve a complaint, send consumers into a spin.

This seems like an obvious correlation, but if customer satisfaction is so integral to customer loyalty, why are retailers not investing more in customer service training to reduce that gap between the level of service customers expect from a company, and what they get?

But aside from your human resources (and specifically, reporting/resolving a problem, which scored poorly across the three retail subsets), what else do consumers get upset about?

We’ve found that product quality, stock levels was a serious concern in premium and online retail, but was good in supermarkets. On the other hand, retailers have got the payment process down pat, with customer effort and sentiment scoring well in all subsets.

So who won out overall in the consumer survey?

Given what we know about what consumers cared most about, the overall satisfaction scores for our six major retailers were as follows:

 Customer satisfaction by retailer

Amazon and eBay’s slick navigation, easy ordering, (generally) good delivery, responsive customer service and low customer effort all contributed to the top customer satisfaction scores.

Marks and Spencer and John Lewis were both noted for excellent product quality, returns process, and helpfulness of staff. It's surprising therefore, that given John Lewis's reputation for great customer service, that their overall customer satisfaction was low.

Tesco and Sainsbury’s customers praised the quality of their products, but were frequently unhappy about stock levels and the ability of staff to resolve problems.

If you're interested in this research, why not join our Linkedin group - we'll be posting new reports, sector spotlights and the latest customer research data as it becomes available.

About the TTi Global Retail Benchmark Survey

The survey was conducted across 2100 UK respondents in all sectors, and 663 respondents in the retail and online retails sectors over six months between 1 June 2017 and 31 November 2017. Respondents were asked to provide customer satisfaction and customer effort ratings, as well as answer questions about their loyalty and recommendation intentions relating to interactions with retailers.

Customer satisfaction was rated on a 1-10 and 0-100 scale, with 10 and 100 being the most positive.

For further information about our benchmarking surveys, contact me at TTi Global Research: or call 01753 214000.