Eight in 10 small businesses have said they are facing a “cost-of-working crisis” due to poor customer service from suppliers, according to a survey.
Conducted by telecommunications provider TalkTalk Business, the survey revealed two-thirds of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) work with suppliers who cite the pandemic as causing poor customer service, despite it being six months since the last set of Covid-19 restrictions ended.
The supplier issue has meant SMEs are unable to focus on economic challenges presented by the cost-of-living crisis – such as rising costs and inflation – with eight in 10 small businesses describing a “cost-of-working crisis”.
On average, SMEs spend 16 hours a month calling supplier customer service teams, which 62% have said results in less time spent focusing on their core business.
The most common issues faced include not having issues dealt with in one call (44%), being kept on hold (55%) and being passed being customer service agents (48%) by suppliers.
Businesses surveyed said support including speaking to the same agent (41%), speaking to a human customer support agent over an automated one (54%), and speaking to someone who understands their company ethos (36%) would enable them to effectively overcome cost-of-working issues.
Companies in the energy, telecoms, and water sectors were found to be more likely to let down their small business customers.
Just four in 10 independent firms said the customer service they received had improved since the pandemic.
Richard Jeffery, national director of The Growth Company – a social enterprise that aims to facilitate growth in the small business sector – said: “In these challenging times, it is critical business leaders are able to devote their full time and attention to the core issues surrounding their organisation.
“This report shows the impact of poor customer service and the amount of time SMEs spend dealing with it – time which would be better spent focused on their business.”
The study was conducted by Mortar Research among 510 SME business owners and decision makers in June.