Substandard service costs £28 billion a year in lost productivity

6th Oct 2017

Brits dealing with customer service issues during office hours cost their employers £28 billion* per year in lost productivity, new research reveals today.

The poll, released by The Institute of Customer Service, analysed the impact of UK employees having to take time out of their working days to resolve personal issues with customer service staff in the last year.

Customer service issues related to house purchases are the most time consuming, and therefore most expensive to organisations, costing an average of £2.5 billion a year. This is followed by resolving tax queries (£2.4 billion) and problems with transport providers (£2.3 billion). The average cost per employee is £1,194 per year.

In terms of instances of poor customer service, Brits are most likely to have to take time out of their day to deal with issues with their utilities provider, with over half (54%) having to make contact to resolve a problem over the past three months. The next biggest culprits are deliveries (44%), house maintenance and repairs (42%) and car problems (42%).

The findings also suggest the impact on the UK economy stretches beyond this £28 billion figure, with employees admitting that the quality of their work has suffered because of poor customer service experiences. Over half (53%) of consumers state frustrations with customer service staff can impact their ability to focus at work even after the conversation is over. In addition:   

• 43% say it has a negative impact on their productivity

• Over a third (37%) feel it has actually led to them underperforming at their job

• Over half (51%) believe their employer has felt negatively towards them for taking time out of their working day to deal with personal administration

• The issue is also impacting on employee wellbeing, causing 58% to feel anxious, 51% to feel angry and 28% to feel physically unwell  

In light of this, three in five (60%) of UK employees believe there should be processes in place to enable customer service issues to be resolved outside of standard working hours.

Jo Causon, CEO of The Institute of Customer Service, says: “There will always be times when employees will have to take time out of their working day to deal with personal issues. However, the responsibility lies with UK organisations to ensure that, as much as possible, problems are prevented at source and customer service interactions are right first time – to protect both the productivity of their own staff, and those interacting with them.

“With so many negatively impacted by this issue, there is a clear call to action for the Boardroom to place real focus on upskilling customer service staff and implementing efficient processes.

"The combined impact on employee time, productivity and wellbeing is a real concern, translating into a tangible loss for employers – and for the UK economy. There is a clear onus on companies to improve their customer service skills to protect the productivity of the UK workforce.”

Top 10 most costly sectors* for UK employers are:

Sector Cost (£billion)

House purchase - £2.58bn

Tax queries or issues - £2.41bn

Transport providers - £2.34bn

House maintenance and repairs - £2.24bn

Faulty goods - £2.22bn

Local council bills e.g. parking tickets, registering for the electoral roll - £2.15bn

Insurance - £2.11bn

Utilities - £2.11bn

Deliveries - £2.08bn

Car problems - £2.03bn


Notes to editors

*TLF polled 1,800 UK employees in September 2017. Individual figures based on average times spent dealing with customer service issues per salary band – example below. £28 billion figure based on total across 13 sectors.

Time spent dealing with customer service staff during own working hours

• Cost per minute: Salary band midpoint divided by 117,000 (minutes in working year) 

• Cost to employer: Minutes dealing with issues multiplied by cost per minute

• Average cost (3 months): Average cost across salary bandings

• Average cost (year): Average three months multiplied by four

• Average cost (population): Average year multiplied by September 2017 ONS figures for employees in full time work (23,596,000)

For further information please contact:  

Rebecca Peck or Bethan Davies  

E: [email protected]

T: 020 7010 0877 (Rebecca Peck), 0207 010 851 (Bethan Davies)

About The Institute of Customer Service

The Institute of Customer Service is the professional body for customer service delivering tangible benefit to organisations and individuals so that our customers can improve their customers’ experience and their own business performance. The Institute is a membership body with a community of over 500 organisational members – from the private, public and third sectors – and over 4,000 individual memberships. For more information about The Institute of Customer Service go to

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