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If you’ve been focusing on operational excellence or innovative product development, maybe it’s time to take a look at your company’s ideas about exceeding customers’ expectations. Last summer, a survey called the American Express Global Customer Service Barometer polled a random sample of consumers 18 and older from the U.S. and 11 other countries. We’ve looked at the results and found several trends that relate directly to the importance of earning and keeping loyalty.

Service matters a lot to consumers. However, they don’t believe companies are committed to giving great service.

  • Almost all those surveyed – 91% – say they consider customer service when they’re deciding to do business with a company, and most say that quality customer service is important in today’s economic environment. These people said they will spend 9% more when they believe a company provides excellent service.
  • But only about one-third think that businesses are more focused on giving quality service, and 28% believe that companies are actually paying less attention to good service than they once did.

Customers listen to others when deciding who to do business with.

  • Nearly all consumers (98%) rely on personal experience and a company’s reputation or brand.
    But 88% (almost as many) get their recommendations from family or friends.
  • Nearly half of people surveyed said that they always or often use an online posting or blog to find out a company’s reputation for product or service before they buy.

Customers are reasonable, and they’ll tolerate poor service – to a point.

  • Over 75% of consumers say that they’re likely to speak positively about a company after a good service experience, and even more said they would give that company repeat business.
  • Interestingly, 86% said they’d give a company a second chance after a bad experience if they’ve previously had good service. Half of the people polled said it takes at least two poor service experiences before they stop doing business with a company.

The cost of attracting new customers continues to be many times greater than keeping existing ones. At a time when customer service can be a stealth weapon that fuels growth, it’s worth asking a few questions:

  • What are you doing to take your service to a higher level?
  • How do you monitor customer perceptions of your service?
  • How do you uncover the unmet service needs of your customers?
  • Do you have a process for gaining back customers you may have lost due to “bad experiences”?
  • What do you believe you might be leaving on the table if you fail to provide better service?
March 10, 2011


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