LONDON: Customer satisfaction levels have increased in the UK this year, with the tourism, retail and services sectors performing particularly strongly in terms of meeting consumer expectations, despite the pressures of the economic downturn.

The Institute of Customer Service surveyed 25,000 adults in the country about their experiences with over 150 commercial organisations, and found that John Lewis, the department store chain, was the best-performing individual company in terms of positive feedback, with an index score of 91.

It was followed by two high-end grocery retailers, Waitrose and Marks & Spencer's food arm, with Mazda, the automaker, and Hilton, the hotel group, among the other organisations making the top ten.

The tourism and food retail sectors both recorded index scores of 79 points, with the "non-food" retail and services categories also registering 78 points each.

More specifically, the tourism sector showed a "more consistent performance" than retail, with operators in the former category having a nine point spread in their ratings, between 75 and 84, compared with corresponding scores of 69 and 87 in the latter.

As the banking sector also posted an improved total, this showed "consumers are still capable of scoring from their own experiences rather than basing their opinions purely on media coverage," the UK Customer Satisfaction Index report argued.

Just 12% of participants said they had "changed supplier" in the last year across the various sectors assessed by the study, although over 20% had done so in the insurance and utilities markets.

Some 44% of those who had "switched" said their main reason for doing so was price, with 20% basing this decision on the service they had received, and 16% because of the specific product concerned.

Overall, the Institute of Customer Service argued shoppers are benefiting from companies "focusing on their customers rather than giving in to the temptation to indulge in short-term cost-cutting."

Data sourced from Institute of Customer Service; additional content by WARC staff