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Grow Your Business Sales & Marketing

Small Business Gives Best Customer Service

Small Business Gives Best Customer Service

Americans are fed up with bad customer service and they are willing to pay more to be treated better. The good news for small business owners, however, is that 81 percent of consumers think small business delivers better service than big businesses do.

That’s the discovery of a new survey that finds that, now that the economy is improving, seven in ten Americans are willing to spend an average of 13 percent more with companies they believe provide excellent customer service. This is up substantially from 2010, the survey found, when six in ten Americans  said they would spend an average of 9 percent more with companies that deliver great service.

Despite their desire to spend more for better treatment, Americans don’t believe businesses are doing much to meet their needs -- and in some cases, they are getting very angry about it.

In fact, 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 are the finding of 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.

Willing to pay

Not only are consumers willing to pay more for service, they are willing to forego the purchase altogether if the transaction is not handled properly, the survey found. Seventy-eight percent of consumers said they have ended 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 said they 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. In addition, two in five said companies are helpful but don’t do anything extra to keep their business.  One in five think companies take their business for granted.

Word of (bad) mouth

Companies that are not focusing on service should beware. Consumers are eager to tell their friends about the service they receive -- good and bad. And, with social media and the Internet, it doesn’t take long for the information to spread.

In fact, Americans say they tell an average of nine people about good experiences, and nearly twice as many (an average of 16 people) about poor ones.

“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,” said Jim Bush, executive vice president, Amex World Service. “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.”

Getting angry

Not surprisingly, Americans report getting angry about poor customer service. More than half of respondents (56 percent) admit to having lost their temper with a customer service professional.

The survey found:

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

Americans who have lost their temper due to a poor service experience will express their displeasure in several ways, including insisting on speaking to a supervisor (74 percent) and hanging up the phone (44 percent). Two in five Americans have threatened to switch to a competitor.

As many as 16 percent of respondents admit to having used curse words with customer service reps , with men more likely to use them than women.

Frustrating phrases

The most irritating customer service tactics are sending customers to another source for help, according to the survey. Putting customers on hold and long wait times were also cited as particularly annoying, the survey found.