Good service offers growth

26 April 2011

NEW YORK: Consumers in the US would be willing to spend more money with companies they believe provide excellent customer service, a survey has revealed.

Financial giant American Express polled 1,018 people to gain an insight into evolving attitudes covering this area - and found that around 90% prefer speaking to a representative on the telephone when interacting with a business.

Another 75% proved either "very" or "somewhat" interested in talking with a staff member in person, the study stated. But just 67% of respondents were interested in using a brand's official website for the same purpose.

Meanwhile, roughly half of interviewees accepted "online chat" as a means of discovering the desired information.

Just over 20% took the same position when it came to social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, which have attracted many major corporations thus far.

Automated telephone response systems received 20%, the lowest approval scores of any channel assessed by American Express.

Some 70% of the sample demonstrated a willingness to spend more money with brand owners that performed well regarding customer service, measured against 58% last year.

More specifically, 15% of buyers pegged this premium at 20% overall, an improvement from only 5% of panellists featured in the equivalent research published in 2010.

The average contributor placed this number at around 12%, a rating which did not even make double-digits in the 2010 analysis.

Jim Bush, executive vice president, service, at American Express, warned enterprises needed to redefine approaches concerning such aspects of their activity.

He suggested that the onset of the recession led to widespread cutbacks, which was perceived as a drain on expenses, and therefore fuelled popular dissatisfaction.

"[Customers] are frustrated by service or a lack thereof," he said.

Mary Jo Bitner, director of the Center for Services Leadership at Arizona State University, argued digital appliances can be beneficial for marketers and appreciated by shoppers.

Less favourably, these tools often fail to provide the depth of information required by users, and cannot redress issues with the speed and flexibility of staff in call centres.

"A lot of times people don't realise how much they value service until a company takes it away," said she added.

"Customers have seen companies cut service and are saying 'Wait a minute. I really do value that.'"

Data sourced from Wall Street Journal; additional content by Warc staff