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Reactions to Inadequate Customer Service

May 4, 2012 by John Washam

Today’s press release from American Express sheds light on how customers react to bad or below-par customer service. Customers who have bad experiences with a business tend to have their voices magnified due to social media.  But it turns out that being exceptional in serving customers doesn’t take superhuman efforts.

Delivering outstanding service creates impassioned advocates and can serve as a powerful marketing weapon for companies

Some key figures about customers in the U.S.:

  • 93% say that companies fail to exceed their service expectations
  • 17% have used social media at least once in the last year to obtain a customer service response
  • 21% that used social media for service are willing to pay a 21% premium at companies that provide great service
  • 46% use social media to vent frustration about a poor service experience
  • Americans will tell an average of 24 people about poor experiences – up 50% from 16 in 2011
  • 32% feel businesses are paying less attention to providing good customer service – an increase from 2011 (26%)
  • Americans will wait an average of 12 minutes for in-person help at establishments such as banks, retail stores or restaurants.


The most popular ways consumers address service inquiries continue to be speaking to a live representative (either on the phone or face-to-face), and through company website or e-mail.  That said, one in five consumers (17%) say they’ve used social media at least once in the last year to obtain a customer service response, and this relatively small group of consumers is extremely engaged and vocal.

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Read on for the full press release after the break.

The press release:

Americans are growing more frustrated with customer service and businesses are feeling the heat as consumers tell an increasing number of people about both their positive and poor service experiences.  The 2012 American Express® Global Customer Service Barometer also found that consumers who have used social media for service wield the greatest amount of influence.  They tell significantly more people about their service experiences, and say they’d spend 21% more with companies who deliver great service – compared to 13% on average.

The survey, which was conducted in the U.S. and ten other countries, also reveals a sorry state of service in general.  Nine in ten of Americans surveyed (93%) say that companies fail to exceed their service expectations.  What’s more, one out of two respondents (55%) walked away from an intended purchase in the past year because of a poor customer service experience.

The most popular ways consumers address service inquiries continue to be speaking to a live representative (either on the phone or face-to-face), and through company website or e-mail.  That said, one in five consumers (17%) say they’ve used social media at least once in the last year to obtain a customer service response, and this relatively small group of consumers is extremely engaged and vocal.

“Delivering outstanding service creates impassioned advocates and can serve as a powerful marketing weapon for companies,” said Jim Bush, Executive Vice President, World Service, American Express.  “For example, consumers who have used social media for service in the last year are willing to pay a 21% premium at companies that provide great service.  They also tell three times as many people about positive service experiences compared to the general population.  Ultimately, getting service right with these social media savvy consumers can help a business grow.”

People who have used social media for customer service at least once in the last year are willing to spend substantially more (21%) with companies they believe provide great service – in contrast with the general population (13% more) and those who have not used social media for customer service (11% more).  They are also far more vocal about service experiences, both good and bad.  In addition, more than 80% of these consumers say they’ve bailed on a purchase because of a poor service experience, compared to 55% overall.

Service Topic

Consumers  Who Haven’t Used Social Media for Customer Service

General Population

Consumers Who Have Used Social Media for Customer Service 

Additional amount consumers are willing to spend for excellent service

11% more

13% more

21% more

Have not completed an intended purchase because of a poor customer service experience in the past year

49%

55%

83%

Number of people consumers will tell about good customer service experiences

9 people

15 people

42 people

Number of people consumers will tell about bad customer service experiences

17 people

24 people

53 people

Consumers who have used social media for customer service do it for a number of reasons.  The “Social Top 5” activities for these Americans are:

1)Seeking an actual response from a company about a service issue – 50%
2)Praising a company for a great service experience – 48%
3)Sharing information about your service experience with a wider audience – 47%
4)Venting frustration about a poor service experience – 46%
5)Asking other users how to have better service experiences – 43%

However, these consumers feel companies are getting better at social media service: 60% of this group feels companies have improved their response times through social media over the past year.

Eyes on the Prize
Social media is not the only way people are spreading the word about their customer service experiences.  The general population will tell significantly more people about their customer service experiences than in 2011, highlighting the importance for businesses of treating every customer interaction as an opportunity to  build customer loyalty and a positive brand image.

  • Americans will tell an average of 15 people about positive experiences – up 67% from 9 last year. 
  • Americans will tell an average of 24 people about poor experiences – up 50% from 16 in 2011. 

More than three in five Americans (61%) feel companies have not increased their focus on providing better service, and of this group, 32% feel businesses are paying less attention to providing good customer service – an increase from 2011 (26%).

This dissatisfaction with the state of customer service overall helps ensure companies that deliver great experiences are recognized – and rewarded.

  • Two in three Americans (66%) said they would spend an average of 13% more with a company that provides excellent customer service – matching 2011 and up from 9% more in 2010.

“Companies must keep their eyes on the prize when it comes to customer service,” said Mr. Bush.  “Outstanding service means exceeding customers’ expectations as you seek to meet their needs.  Companies that do this consistently understand that exceptional service is a real competitive advantage.”

Top Customer Service Gripes
Nerves are fraying because of subpar service.  More than a third of respondents (35%) report that they have lost their temper with a service professional in the past year.  When asked about the top customer service irritants most likely to lead them to switch brands in 2012, eight in ten (79%) Americans cited one of these “Big Four Gripes”:

The Big Four Service Gripes

1)Rudeness:  An insensitive or unresponsive customer service representative – 33%
2)Passing the Buck:  Being shuffled around with no resolution of the issue – 26%
3)The Waiting Game:  Waiting too long to have an issue resolved – 10%
4)Being Boomeranged:  Forced to continually follow up on an issue – 10%

How long are Americans willing to wait for customer service before slamming down the receiver?  The average consumer hits his or her boiling point after 13 minutes on hold – creating a golden opportunity for companies to increase customer satisfaction by beating the clock.  Similarly, Americans will wait an average of 12 minutes for in-person help at establishments such as banks, retail stores or restaurants.

Tips for Delivering Better Service
Clearly, many companies have room for improvement in the eyes of consumers both in the U.S. and around the world.  American Express offers the following tips that can help almost any company provide a better service experience and improve how it is viewed by its customers include:

1)Great service starts with the people who deliver it – Motivate and enable your employees to go above and beyond for your customers.
2)It’s all about relationships – Good service comes down to forming relationships with customers. Look at customer service as an opportunity to deepen your connection with your customers, not just as a transaction to be completed.
3)Make it easy for customers to do business with you – Listen to your customers and use their feedback to improve your product and service.
4)Exceeding expectations is easier than you think – Customers aren’t unreasonable and don’t except every problem to be solved instantly.  They simply want to be treated like individuals, know that you genuinely care about their issue, and are working hard to address it.
5)Listen to your employees – They are closest to your customers and understand the most about what customers want and need. Don’t miss out on their incredibly valuable insight.
6)Seek opportunities to make an impression – Understand and act on the notion that every customer interaction is an opportunity to create a connection and to drive customer loyalty and engagement.


About the American Express Global Customer Service Barometer
For the third consecutive year, the American Express® Global Customer Service Barometer was conducted in the U.S. and ten other countries, exploring consumer attitudes and preferences toward customer service.  Research was completed online among a random sample of 1,000 U.S. consumers aged 18+.  Interviewing was conducted by Echo Research between February 22-29, 2012. Overall, the results have a margin of error of +/- 3.1% at the 95 percent level of confidence.  The same survey methodology was used in Canada, Mexico, France, Germany, Italy, the U.K., the Netherlands, Australia, Japan, and India.

About American Express World Service
American Express is a global services company, providing customers with access to products, insights and experiences that enrich lives and build business success.  American Express World Service is an integrated, global network comprised of 20,000 employees across nearly two dozen proprietary servicing locations.  This team provides service to American Express customers globally in more than a dozen languages and across a broad array of channels, including telephone, internet, e-mail and mobile.  The company’s service ethos, Relationship Care®, focuses on deepening relationships with customers by creating an emotional connection and providing tailored information about how to get the most out of their cards and relationships with American Express.  The company is a five-time recipient of the J.D. Power and Associates “Highest in Customer Satisfaction among U.S. Credit Card Companies” and has received this study’s top ranking every year since it was launched in 2007.  American Express World Service has also been recognized as a leading service provider in many markets around the world.  Learn more at www.americanexpress.com and connect with us on www.facebook.com/americanexpress, www.twitter.com/americanexpress and www.youtube.com/americanexpress.

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