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16 September 2015, 06:00
Scottish Power's "useless'' customer service has sent it to the bottom of a ranking of the UK's biggest brands where it languishes with fellow energy companies and telecoms providers.
The "big six'' supplier suffered the lowest rating of 100 brands at just 59% after coming second to bottom last year in the annual Which? survey of 3,500 consumers, with customers reporting "useless service and unhelpful standardised replies''.
A Scottish Power spokesman said: ``We would like to reassure customers that we are committed to restoring our service levels to the highest possible standards.
``Last year all our customer accounts were migrated on to a new IT system, which resulted in a very busy period as disappointingly we experienced more problems with the new system than we would have liked.
``The new system is very important as it ensures that Scottish Power customers will be able to take full advantage of all the benefits we anticipate from the roll-out of smart meters in the coming years, and it will allow us to continue adding innovative features to make it easier for customers to manage their accounts.
``To restore our service we have recruited 500 additional customer advisers to our UK call centres and, since the survey was conducted, our average speed of answer has improved by 72% from 193 seconds in 2014 to 54 seconds over the last three months and we have also seen a 50% reduction in our regulated complaints.''
But competitor npower was barely ahead with 61%, just below telecoms companies BT (63%), TalkTalk (64%), Vodafone (66%) and EE (68%).
The telecoms giants' poor performance set a "worrying trend'' for the industry, the watchdog warned.
Energy was the worst performing sector, with SSE managing the top score of 74%, followed by British Gas and EDF Energy (both 71%).
Budget airline Ryanair remains in the bottom five despite its widely publicised efforts to improve customer service, with a score of 66%, taking it up to 95th position after finishing last in the 2013 survey.
Those that ranked lowest were criticised for disloyalty, inflexibility and long waits, making their customers feel like a nuisance.
Budget supermarket favourite Aldi suffered a surprising fall in customer approval from last year's 29th position to joint 73rd, with Which? noting that while it scored well in overall satisfaction surveys, ``it seems to miss the spot when it comes to customer service''.
Its competitor Lidl rose up the table, however, from 77th to joint 42nd place.
High street cosmetics firm Lush topped the table with a score of 89%, achieving the full five stars for making customers feel valued, staff helpfulness and knowledge of products and service.
Internet and telephone bank First Direct was runner up with 86%, followed by Lakeland (84%) and The Body Shop, John Lewis and Waitrose, all scoring 83%.
Many of the banks significantly improved their rankings, such as Santander, rising from 70th place last year to joint 14th with a score of 79%, possibly reflecting improvements such as its new website, branch refurbishments and the cashback benefit.
Barclays and Yorkshire Bank both jumped from joint 60th position to joint 19th with a score of 78%.
The poll found 78% of people feel customer service is important when deciding which companies to use, and 88% said poor service puts them off using a brand again.
Which? executive director Richard Lloyd said: "Long-suffering customers deserve better, as once again essential services that we all rely on have been caught falling down on how they treat people.
"Nearly nine in 10 told us poor service puts them off using a company again, so there is a clear incentive to offer service that makes customers smile.
"Companies at the bottom of our survey should take note: make your customers seethe and you will pay the price.''
The top companies for customer service, according to the Which? survey, are:
1. Lush (89%)
2. First Direct (86%)
3. Lakeland (84%)
=4. The Body Shop (83%)
=4. John Lewis (83%)
=4. Waitrose (83%)
The worst companies are:
100. Scottish Power (59%)
99. npower (61%)
98. BT (63%)
97. TalkTalk (64%)
=95. Vodafone (66%)
=95. Ryanair (66%)