LONDON: Many consumers in the UK are placing a stronger emphasis on customer service as a result of the economic downturn, but often feel companies are not responding in kind, new figures show.

Sage UK, the software provider, surveyed 2,000 people in the country, and discovered 47% of participants were putting a "higher premium" on the "overall experience" provided by brand owners.

However, just 22% of contributors believed firms were trying harder than before the recession to attract and retain their custom, despite the challenging financial climate.

Moreover, a 24% share of the panel agreed the organisations they did business with were actually exerting less effort here than had been the case before the recession.

Among the negative consequences that can follow on from failing to meet expectations in this area was that consumers would switch to alternative companies and brands, the study warned.

Overall, 30% of interviewees reported that they would make such a move having been disappointed in such a way on just one occasion.

Figures here climbed to 36% for members of the panel living in East Anglia, but 75% of those polled residing in London would give a product or provider a "second chance before giving up on them".

Younger consumers were also found to be generally more forgiving than the norm when their experience fell short of meeting the anticipated standard.

Overall, 75% of people in the 18–25 year old age range expressed a willingness to give a company a second chance, measured against just 41% of people over the age of 55 years old.

Kevin Thompson, head of customer services for Sage's small business division, said: "With competition fierce and money tight, it's more important than ever for businesses to up their game by going above and beyond the standard level of service that consumers expect."

"Businesses that are unable to break the cycle of formalised service levels will struggle to deliver the wow factor customers clearly want."

Data sourced from Customer Service Manager; additional content by Warc staff