• In 2011, most Americans preferred small business customer service to big businesses’ service. A 2019 survey found that this trend has continued.
  • Many customers said they would pay more to purchase from a business with better customer support.
  • Small businesses can take certain steps to improve their customer service immediately.
  • This article is for small business owners looking to perfect their customer service.

Americans are fed up with bad customer service and willing to pay more to be treated better. These results echo the 2011 findings of the American Express Global Customer Service Barometer, a survey conducted in the U.S. and nine other countries to explore attitudes and preferences toward customer service. These decade-old findings show that the trend is nothing new – good customer service has been critical to customer loyalty for ages.

The original AmEx survey findings

Better customer service means a stronger bottom line. In that sense, not much has changed since 2011. Back then, 81% of consumers thought that small businesses deliver better service than big businesses do. The survey also found that, with the economy then improving, 7 in 10 Americans were willing to spend an average of 13% more with companies they believed provide excellent customer service.

A 2019 Forbes survey found that 74% of customers would spend more money for a better customer service experience. This same Forbes survey may have uncovered the reason why, in 2011, customers felt skeptical about customer service. Three-quarters of the millennials Forbes surveyed said they expected personalized customer service. Two-thirds of this group also believed that “the customer is always right.” The equivalent figures among older groups were significantly lower.

Looking for a way to boost your customer service and build better relationships with your target audience? Explore how startup CRM software can help with this.

Customers’ willingness to pay more

Consumers are willing not only to pay more for service, but also to forgo the purchase altogether if the transaction is not handled properly, the AmEx survey found. More than 78% of consumers said they have ended a transaction or not made an intended purchase because of a poor service experience.

Similarly, the promise of better customer service is a draw for shoppers: 3 in 5 Americans said they would try a new brand or company for a better service experience. Forbes’ 2019 survey saw this figure increase to 74%, up from 60% when AmEx surveyed its customers.

As of 2019, 74% of Americans would try a new company for better customer service – a 14% increase from 2011.

Yet Americans feel most companies are failing to get the message that service matters. Nearly two-thirds of consumers felt that businesses aren’t paying enough attention to service. In addition, 2 in 5 said companies are helpful but don’t do anything extra to keep their business, and 1 in 5 thought that companies take their business for granted.

Word of (bad) mouth

Companies that are not focusing on customer 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. In 2020, Salesforce found that 72% of Americans tell six or more people about good customer service experiences.

“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 of American Express World Service at the time of the AmEx study, in a statement. “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.”

How to improve your customer service experience immediately

Perhaps the fastest way to improve your customer service is to empower your team. This goes beyond providing motivation, encouragement and guidance; it also involves building up your customer service infrastructure.

Empowering your customer service team means:

  • Providing the right tools.
  • Properly training your team.
  • Offering professional development opportunities.
  • Listening to your team’s feedback and implementing the appropriate changes.

Other steps you can take include building customer loyalty, implementing IVR and VoIP systems such as Nextiva (learn more in our Nextiva review), and adding multichannel customer support, such as social media customer service.

If any customer service improvements seem out of reach, look back on this article’s stats to motivate yourself and your team to achieve them. The importance of top-notch customer service should immediately become clear.

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