Small business owners have revealed that poor customer service from suppliers is hampering their ability to focus on rising costs and inflation, according to research by TalkTalk Business

Two thirds of SMEs (67 per cent) say they work with a supplier that has blamed poor customer service on the pandemic, despite almost six months passing since the last set of Covid-19 restrictions.

This comes as eight in 10 small businesses worry they are facing a ‘cost-of-working crisis’, where the cost of doing business threatens the viability of the business itself.

“The past two years have been incredibly challenging for small businesses, who are the beating heart of our economy. We’re proud to partner with The Growth Company to provide advice to small businesses on how they can secure the best customer support to enable them to focus on the issues that matter,” says Jonathan Kini, Managing Director, Direct Consumer and B2B.


Customer service and inflation

On average SMEs are spending 16 hours a month on the phone to supplier customer service teams, which almost two thirds (62 per cent) say diverts attention away from their core business.

“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,” warns Richard Jeffery, National Director of The Growth Company.

Being on hold (55 per cent), being passed between customers service agents (48 per cent) and not having issues dealt with in one call (44 per cent) are the most common customer service issues SMEs face.

Just four in 10 (40 per cent) independent enterprises say that the customer service they receive has improved since the pandemic, while 64 per cent say poor customer service from their suppliers impacts their bottom line.

Small business owners say improvements in customer service would enable them to focus on tackling the cost-of-working crisis. The most commonly cited examples of standout support are:

  • Having issues dealt with efficiently (59 per cent)
  • Speaking to a human customer service representative rather than an automated system (54 per cent)
  • Speaking to the same agent throughout (41 per cent)
  • Receiving friendly service (37 per cent)
  • Speaking to an agent who understands their business (36 per cent)

A better standard of customer service from suppliers will enable SME owners to focus on overcoming the financial challenges posed by inflation in the current climate.






Amelia Brand is the Editor for HRreview, and host of the HR in Review podcast series. With a Master’s degree in Legal and Political Theory, her particular interests within HR include employment law, DE&I, and wellbeing within the workplace. Prior to working with HRreview, Amelia was Sub-Editor of a magazine, and Editor of the Environmental Justice Project at University College London, writing and overseeing articles into UCL’s weekly newsletter. Her previous academic work has focused on philosophy, politics and law, with a special focus on how artificial intelligence will feature in the future.