SME news in brief: customer service, pensions, contactless, payments

SMEs must not neglect customer service

Only one in 10 (8%) consumers is willing to ‘forgive and forget’ when it comes to a poorly managed complaint.

This is according to new research from Ombudsman Services, which found that there were 52 million complaints about products and services last year.

In terms of driving brand loyalty, the research suggests that complaint handling is becoming increasingly important. A well-handled complaint makes customers 67% more likely to return to a company or brand, with only a quarter (25%) saying they would not make a repeat purchase even though their complaint was handled well.

One in five consumers worried about contactless payments

The UK is increasingly heading towards becoming a cashless society, with the majority of payment transactions in the UK last year being made without cash. However, recent figures from Financial Fraud Action showed contactless card crime has seen a 16-fold increase in 2015 when compared with 2014. Figures also found that fraud-related crime is costing £755 million a year – a 26% increase on the previous year.

Since being introduced to the market, contactless card use in the UK has soared, with recent figures showing payments rose by more than 300% in 2015 to reach £7.75 billion. Yet, many consumers are still anxious about using the technology, and research from Defender Note found that one in five (19%) claiming they will never use a contactless card because they don’t think they’re secure.

Defender Note is a new fraud-protection product designed to help cut the cost of contactless fraud currently hitting consumers and businesses.

Only 16% employers refer staff to Pension Wise

One year after the introduction of pension freedoms, employers are still grappling with the ways in which to educate their staff on pension reforms, with the popularity of government provision waning.

Research from Close Brothers Business Barometer, which questions almost 900 employers across the UK, found that just 16% of employees are referring staff to Pension Wise, the government’s free guidance service. This compares to 20% of employers in October 2015 saying their staff were turning to Pension Wise for more information about the pension reforms.

These figures comes in the wake of the Chancellor’s recent announcement that the government would replace Pension Wise, the Money Advise Service and the Pensions Advisory Service with a new slimmed-down money guidance body, in order to direct more funding to the front line and focus support on areas of greatest consumer need.

The Close Brothers research highlights that employers are increasingly looking at arranging solutions to educate staff, with 30% of employers saying pension engagement for all staff was used as a step for responding to pension reforms, compared to 25% in October 2015. This increase is also mirrored by the increase in the number of employers using retirement seminars to help staff understand their wider choices, up from 8% in July 2015 and 12% in October 2015 to 14% now.

Innovate UK invests in SMEs

Innovate UK is to invest £561m in innovation over the next 12 months and take a more focused and efficient approach to supporting innovative UK companies.

The delivery plan for the year 2016 to 2017 includes:

  • A new sector focus that is easier for industry, investors and government to work with
  • A 5-point plan to underpin activity across these sectors and drive productivity growth
  • Clearer funding programmes that are easier to navigate
  • Improvements to the way Innovate UK connects businesses to knowledge and partners
  • A stronger regional presence.

Chief executive Dr Ruth McKernan said: “To be globally competitive the UK must innovate and grow. Innovation is responsible for 50% of all productivity growth and the mission of Innovate UK is to help make this happen.

“We will build on our track record of success, focusing ever more closely on scaling up SMEs, equipping them to reap the benefits of the fourth industrial revolution.”