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Toothy: UK dentists top for customer service, gym staff bottom, survey finds

In a study of 1,000 UK consumers by customer service training firm, Results International, 47% of people said they think dentists have a good customer service attitude, compared with just 27% who voted for doctors and 30% for waiters. Bar staff were only rated by one in five (20%). However, gym employees secured only 9% of the vote for good service and were more likely to be noted for their bad customer service approach by 12%, plunging them into the league of poorest performers.

Hotel receptionists and hairdressers performed well in the customer service stakes, receiving nominations from 39% of people. Other groups more likely to be noted for poor customer service than for good included police, hospital staff, general shop assistants, post office staff and council workers. The last were voted for by a whopping 40% as having a bad customer service attitude.

Some high-pressure professions such as police, hospital personnel and, to an extent, council workers, may well be bound up in red tape that prevents them from being more service-orientated.

The presence of gym staff on the sick list is less understandable. Paul Stephenson, managing director of Results International, said: "Gym staff operating at the heart of the leisure sector, often in member-based organisations, should have a strong service ethic running through all they do. It suggests there are some issues with their training or even recruitment, which is causing this service gap, perhaps with people being taken on for their skills, but not their attitude."

When asked ‘Which of the following customer service styles do you think most describes UK businesses’ approach?’, 27% said Brittas Empire (‘systems and process driven… service feels impersonal’), 21% East Enders Café (‘you’ve gone for the cheap and convenient option and should be grateful for what you get’), while 11% said Fawlty Towers (‘well-meaning employees, thwarted by senior management’). Only 3% described UK customer service in Downton Abbey terms – ‘an art form. Nothing’s too much trouble’.

Stephenson believes cuts in employee training or numbers “are always felt by the customer”, adding: “It could be that retailers and post offices are keeping their headcount to an absolute minimum and this is impacting on an individual's ability to deliver good customer service. Often, cuts in staff are inevitable, but to do this without thinking about the systems you operate or the way remaining employees are trained and developed is madness."

Results International’s report, Is Your Customer Service World Class?, was published yesterday. The opinions of 1,000 consumers, drawn from the whole of the UK and 82 business directors/senior personnel, representing a mix of industry sectors, were surveyed by online questionnaire in early June 2012.