By Greg Zemor, co-Founder of marketplace distribution solution Neteven

British consumers are losing their patience with retailers. Over the past year, retail customer complaints have doubled making the retail industry the most complained about sector according to Ombudsman’s Services annual Consumer Action Monitor survey. These complaints, whether made to the supplier, shared online or aimed at a third party, were divided into those online and in-store. Out of the 66 million complaints which were registered, 28% (18.5m) were aimed at retailers.

What has caused this sudden rise in complaints?

There is simply a lack of trust directed at big corporations. According to this same survey, one third of people believe that larger businesses are mainly interested in profit and not in satisfying the customer. Social media and technology also play a significant role in this rise in complaints. Enabling customers to easily and swiftly vent their issues and protests publically and directly to those responsible, social media platforms are a powerful weapon for customers. All retailers know that bad customer service can ruin years of careful reputation building and consumers are aware that if they name and shame a company on Twitter, their complaint will be upgraded.

How can retail merchants reduce these complaints?

Unfortunately, one company cannot change the widespread lack of trust in the UK around big business, but it can ensure that it doesn’t become known for having bad customer service.

Retailers must make sure that their twitter, Facebook and other forums are not only monitored, but also linked to the customer helpline and other service channels so that these issues can be responded to as soon as they happen. By responding to a complaint with an immediate and appropriate solution, a potential reputational hazard is instantly turned into a glowing endorsement. Retailers also need to keep the human element in mind for their automated telephone systems by providing an option to speak to a real person if required. With these strategies in place, customers are more likely to receive a satisfactory result to what they consider to be a real problem.

Retailers need to integrate customer data and the various business processes so that the customer receives the optimum service which doesn’t require inefficient double handling of information by operatives. This also needs to be linked to the logistics and technical support teams so dispatch and technical advice are readily available. Click-and-collect systems are particularly valuable for retailers, as it gives them a proximity with customers and guarantees customer loyalty by offering multiple delivery options to fulfil their needs.

Another great tool for retail merchants are third party marketplaces. Companies which are keen to improve their customers’ purchasing experience can benefit from the services offered by marketplaces including: an in-built marketing service, an efficient logistics service and a local, reactive customer service. Also, a sales management IT solution tool can prove useful for retailers as it allows them to save money and time by automating several tedious daily. Thus, retail merchants are able to deal with fast deliveries, react with efficiency and avoid everyday issues.

Although it is clear that British consumers have a tendency to complain and do so often in the loudest possible way, this can only be resolved by retailers establishing a fully integrated approach. This way, retailers can rest assured that they can retain their customers by providing an efficient service and at the same time maintain their reputation, a crucial part of any successful business.