By Alex Evans, Editorial Director, National Business Awards

The retail industry remains the strongest performing sector for customer service, with internet retailers stealing a march on their high street competitors - according to the latest UK Customer Satisfaction Index (UKCSI).

Online fashion retailer, ASOS, achieved the highest overall customer satisfaction in the Index, with almost 92 out of a maximum score of 100. ASOS is closely followed by Amazon and online bank, First Direct, in the overall customer satisfaction stakes.

Claudia Thorpe, Editorial Director of callcentre.co.uk observes: “The ease of internet shopping has altered consumer behaviour and retailers have been quick to realise that offering excellent service makes the difference between success and failure. As more and more interactions between companies and individuals take place online, the pressure is on organisations to make sure the service they offer over the Internet adds value to the customer relationship — so it’s great to see online retailers leading the way.”

The picture across the UKCSI as a whole is positive, as customer service in the UK continues to improve, with overall service accross all sectors rising over the last six months. Since January, every sector included in the UKCSI improved its rating, except local authorities (74.8), which remained consistent with its January score of 74.9.

Non-food and food retail lead the UKCSI sector performance rankings, with local service providers narrowly behind (81.5). Other strong industries for customer satisfaction include automotive (80.9), leisure (80.8) and tourism (80.5). Financial services, including banking and insurance, scores above 78.

Interestingly, consumers are now putting more focus on service, with 1 in 4 people in the Automotive, Banking, Insurance and Telecommunications sectors indicating a strong preference for excellent service, even if this means a higher price. Sectors scoring below average (achieving between 72 and 75) include local authorities, national government services, telecommunications, transport and utilities.

Jo Causon, Chief Executive of the Institute of Customer Service, comments: “The overall improvement in the UKCSI is an encouraging indicator that organisations are continuing to prioritise and invest in customer service.

“However, the increased diversity in customer satisfaction reflects customers’ growing sensitivity to the experience they receive in a challenging economic climate.

“With less disposable income, consumers are far more discerning. In this environment, service will be the key differentiator, helping to deliver a tangible impact on customer retention, loyalty, and ultimately, the bottom line.”

The UKCSI is the national measure of customer satisfaction. The Institute of Customer Service (ICS) gauges the quality of customer service in the UK.

A spokesperson from Huawei, sponsor for the National Business Awards Customer Focus Award said: “Focusing on our customers’ needs is one of the key factors of Huawei’s success and we look at the most innovative and efficient ways of delivering the best possible service. We have over 20 joint innovation centres around the world developed in partnership with our customers, to make sure we know exactly what they want — delivering truly collaborative customer service. We’ve aligned with the Customer Focus Award, because we want to recognise the very best in customer service in the UK and acknowledge the growing importance of service.”