An unpleasant customer experience is cost brands in the UK around £234 billion a year in lost sales, according to new research.

The study, conducted by cloud-based contact centre firm Magnetic North, found that 92% of consumers have had a poor customer experience and one in three have acted on their frustration by abandoning a purchase because they couldn’t find the information they needed.

Based on the Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures on household spending and its own research, Magnetic North said the customer experience problem is not just costing businesses billions of pounds, but hundreds of billions of pounds.

The survey highlights a preference for dealing with businesses via the web, with 62% preferring to research online and 69% preferring to make a purchase online. The web is even the preferred channel for negative feedback, with 41% of consumers preferring to make complaints online, compared to 24% on the phone, showing that brands need to make the whole customer experience multichannel right through to the feedback process.

Consumers are increasingly making purchases via their mobile, with one in five consumers preferring to research potential purchases or service providers on a mobile or tablet device, highlighting the importance of brands making the entire customer experience mobile friendly.

The UK’s consumers are not just abandoning one-off purchases, they are also switching long-term allegiance as a result of poor customer service; almost half (46%) of consumers have moved to a competitor because of poor customer service. Top reasons for switching to a competitor include difficulty finding out how to contact customer service (71%), waiting in contact centre queues with no call back option (66%) and dealing with a contact centre agent who has no knowledge of the customer’s previous interactions (66%).

David Ford, managing director of Magnetic North, said: "The customer experience landscape has changed. Customers now hold the power and they won't hesitate to take their business elsewhere if brands can't meet their demands. Businesses will have to adapt to becoming more customer-centric in order to stay competitive.

"Negative experiences are resulting in customers abandoning purchases and this is costing UK brands billions each year. And with our research revealing that 92% of consumer have had a bad customer experience, no brands can afford to be complacent."