Survey: Twice as many people tell others about bad service than good

Americans are placing an even greater premium on quality customer service this year. Seven in 10 Americans (70 percent) are willing to spend an average of 13 percent more with companies they believe provide excellent customer service. This is up substantially from 2010, when six in 10 Americans (58 percent) said they would spend an average of 9 percent more with companies that deliver great service.

But despite the greater value Americans are placing on customer service, many businesses don't seem to be making the grade with consumers.

  • In fact, six in 10 Americans (60 percent) believe businesses haven’t increased their focus on providing good customer service – up from 55 percent in 2010.
  • Among this group, 26 percent think companies are actually paying less attention to service.

These findings were released recently in the American Express Global Customer Service Barometer, a survey conducted in the U.S. and nine other countries exploring attitudes and preferences toward customer service.

"Getting service right is more than just a nice to do; it's a must do," said Jim Bush, executive vice president, World Service. "American consumers are willing to spend more with companies that provide outstanding service, and they will also tell, on average, twice as many people about bad service than they are about good service. Ultimately, great service can drive sales and customer loyalty."

Service can make or break brands

Americans vote with their wallets when they encounter subpar service; 78 percent of consumers have bailed on a transaction or not made an intended purchase because of a poor service experience. On the other hand, the promise of better customer service is a draw for shoppers: three in five Americans (59 percent) would try a new brand or company for a better service experience.

Yet Americans feel most companies are failing to get the message that service matters. Nearly two-thirds of consumers feel companies aren't paying enough attention to service:

  • Two in five (42 percent) said companies are helpful but don’t do anything extra to keep their business.
  • One in five (22 percent) think companies take their business for granted.

A notable bright spot? Small businesses. Four in five Americans (81 percent) agree that smaller companies place a greater emphasis on customer service than large businesses.

The multiplier effect

Consumers will tell others about their customer service experiences, both good and bad, with the bad news reaching more ears. Americans say they tell an average of nine people about good experiences, and nearly twice as many (16 people) about poor ones – making every individual service interaction important for businesses.

Customers who have a fantastic service experience say friendly representatives (65 percent) who are ultimately able to solve their concerns (66 percent) are most influential.

"There are many who subscribe to the convention that service is a business cost, but our data demonstrates that superior service is an investment that can help drive business growth," Bush said. "Investing in quality talent, and ensuring they have the skills, training and tools that enable them to empathize and actively listen to customers are central to providing consistently excellent service experiences."

Poor service leaves customers seeing red...

Poor service experiences leave many Americans hot under the collar. More than half of respondents (56 percent) admit to having lost their temper with a customer service professional.

  • Consumers age 30-49 are the most frequently angered (61 percent).
  • Young people are more patient, with more than half of those age 18-29 saying they've never lost their temper with a service professional (54 percent).

...And once they're angry, watch out!

Americans who have lost their temper due to a poor service experience will express their displeasure in a host of ways, including insisting on speaking to a supervisor (74 percent) and hanging up the phone (44 percent). Perhaps most unsettling for businesses on the receiving end of customer anger: Two in five Americans have threatened to switch to a competitor (39 percent).

Not everyone keeps it clean when dealing with a frustrating service situation either. Expletives have crossed the lips of 16 percent of respondents, with men more likely to use "choice words" (20 percent) compared with women (12 percent).

(Photo by Dave Prasad.)

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User Comments – Give us your opinion!
  • Dave Parker
    280701
    In Maine we have the "Consumer Goods and Maine Express and Implied Warranty Laws" - If a service provider provides "seriously defective" goods or service, you didn't mess it up, and you bought it less than 4 years ago you might be able to force the merchant to fix or replace. That applies to seller and manufacturer. Any other states have this protection for consumers?
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