Unhappy but unmoving: dissatisfied British consumers won’t always change brands
August 2nd, 2023, Christien Pheby

Unhappy but unmoving: dissatisfied British consumers won’t always change brands

In the film Annie Hall, the main character jokes about a restaurant with terrible food – and tiny portions. It’s meant to be a sort of grimly existential comment about how life is miserable and over all too quickly, but it’s also broadly applicable to consumer attitudes towards the companies they buy from. They might not always love the brand or the deal they’re getting, but often they’re willing to stick around.

New YouGov data explores how motivated Britons are to seek out better providers across several different kinds of products and services. If we ask people about switching providers in a general sense, two-thirds (64%) say they are motivated to do so – with just a third (32%) saying they aren’t.

But if we break it down by different products and services, people are decidedly less keen on change. Britons generally aren’t motivated to seek out a superior brand across these categories – with the exception of insurance (54%) and energy companies (54%). Across every other category, from supermarkets (46% motivated; 50% unmotivated) and mobile phone networks (41% vs. 53%) to video game consoles (29% vs. 59%) and newspapers (26% vs. 67%), people are more likely to stick with their current suppliers than make a change.

It's important to note that this may stem from generally high levels of satisfaction with their current suppliers. If Britons don’t want to change banks, for example, it’s likely because three in five bank customers (60% satisfied) are happy enough with their current brand. In most cases, apart from energy suppliers and insurance companies, satisfaction outstrips motivation to change.

But even when you ask unhappy customers, they aren’t necessarily minded to make a change.

Dissatisfied, but not deserting: Unhappy customers aren’t always motivated to change brands

Our data shows that even if we look exclusively at customers who say they’re fairly or very dissatisfied with a company, they won’t always look to switch. Most do say they’re motivated to find a better energy company (65% motivated; 30% unmotivated), insurance provider (60% vs. 36%) supermarket (60% vs 37%) ISP (58% vs 36%), or mobile phone network (57% vs. 36%), but in each case, at least three in ten will keep trudging along with a brand they don’t especially like.

For every other category, unhappy consumers are actually more likely to stick with a brand than not. While 46% of people who are dissatisfied with their bank are looking to move on, 50% are not motivated to change; if 45% would change their doctor or dentist, 49% would not.

In other categories, the gulf is even wider. Just four in ten people who dislike their gym say they’re motivated to leave (40%), but well over half (56%) are not; if Britons think their cinema experience is uncomfortable, overpriced, or otherwise suboptimal, most still wouldn’t leave for a rival chain (34% motivated; 61% unmotivated). In these cases, geography might play a more significant role than anything else: after all, customers don’t have an infinite number of cinema chains or health clubs to choose from. Same goes for newspapers (33% motivated vs. 58% unmotivated) or social platforms (22% vs. 71%).

But even in cases where there is perhaps more choice and convenience – for example, laptop brands (42% vs. 57%) or internet browsers (33% vs. 59%), the majority just aren’t that bothered about leaving, even if they think something better might be out there. Incumbency, it seems, is a hell of a drug.

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YouGov Surveys: Serviced provide quick survey results from nationally representative or targeted audiences in multiple markets. This study was conducted online on 8-9 June 2023, with a nationally representative sample of 2000 adults in Great Britain  (aged 18+ years), using a questionnaire designed by YouGov. Data figures have been weighted by age, gender, education and social grade to be representative of all adults in Great Britain (18 years or older), and reflect the latest ONS population estimates. Learn more about YouGov Surveys: Serviced.