SAN FRANCISCO: Two thirds of customers who enjoy a good customer experience with one company tend to carry that expectation to other companies in other sectors, research has found.

A report commissioned from Forrester by social software business Lithium Technologies built on the company's existing Technology Adoption Profile with a custom survey of 1,386 online consumers in the US, Canada, the UK, France and Germany as it examined customer engagement through social channels.

When asked whether they agreed with the statement "Great experiences with some companies make me expect more from all companies", 27% of respondents expressed strong agreement and 39% somewhat agreed. A further 19% neither agreed nor disagreed while just 4% said they disagreed.

"This raises the bar for brands across industries and makes a focus on customer experience even more essential," the report said, adding that as ordinary  interactions increasingly moved to social, every company would need to understand how to engage customers across channels.

This was especially true for younger consumers, as 41% of 18-24 year olds and 40% of 25-34 year olds indicated a preference for brands providing customer support through online social media. And only a slightly smaller proportion (39% and 38% respectively) wanted brands to listen and respond to them via the same channel.

Customer experience varied greatly across industries, with retailers and hotels performing best in the US, while health insurers and ISPs were worst. Lithium also noted a "huge gap" between the top and bottom performers in financial services.

Consumers rated their experiences with financial services companies – which included investment firms, banks and credit card providers – as just "OK" on average, and the report suggested that companies in this sector could still gain an early mover advantage by focusing on improving customer interactions.

"Visionary companies see increasing customer expectations as an opportunity," declared Rob Tarkoff, Lithium President and CEO. They were able to gain competitive advantage by building the kind of relationships customers expect today, and were also "leading an entire industry by delivering a fully differentiated, disruptive customer experience".

Data sourced from Lithium Technologies; additional content by Warc staff