GLOBAL: Customer satisfaction levels fall during the holiday season with the retail and travel industries being the most affected new data has revealed.

The quarterly Zendesk Benchmark report, from the customer service software firm, was based on actual interactions between 16,000 participating organisations and their customers across 125 countries. It found that overall customer satisfaction dropped globally by two percentage points in the fourth quarter of 2013 to 80%.

It said this was a yearly trend but noted that retailers had been especially vulnerable in the recent holiday period when satisfaction levels dropped six points, compared to just two points a year earlier.

Travel too was badly affected, with a seven point drop and Zendesk observed that there were increased customer service demands on these two industries at their busiest time of the year.

Other industries experiencing decreases in customer satisfaction for the quarter included software and healthcare.

"Customer satisfaction took a hit across the board, and retailers felt more pain than usual," said Sam Boonin, research lead for the Zendesk Benchmark. "The holiday service woes serve as a wake-up call for companies to better anticipate and prepare for seasonal demands," he added.

Zendesk suggested that retailers had not added enough staff to match the extra deluge of requests over the holidays, as its research showed the workload for support agents up 19% in the last two months of 2013, compared to a 6% increase in 2012.

The best performing sectors globally were IT services and consultancy with a 96% satisfaction level, followed by government and non-profit (95%) and real estate (94%).

And the worst were social media (69%), travel and tourism (75%) and entertainment and gaming (76%).

The report also ranked countries, with Norway (91%), Canada (89%) and Denmark (89%) coming out on top. At the other end of the scale were India, whose 54% figure was a 13 point drop from the third quarter, Turkey (61%) and the United Arab Emirates (67%).

A recent article in the International Journal of Market Research argued that 'customer experience', rather than the more usual 'customer satisfaction', was a better measure for evaluating consumers' behavioural intentions. Customer experience, said the authors, was replacing quality as the competitive battleground for marketing.

Data sourced from Zendesk; additional content by Warc staff