Aussie businesses falling down on customer service: Survey

This article was originally posted on StartupSmart by Michelle Hammond

A third of Australian consumers believe businesses pay less attention to giving good customer service in the current economic climate, according to a new global survey.

The American Express Global Customer Service Barometer includes a random sample of 1,021 Australian consumers. The same survey methodology was used in Canada, Mexico, France, Germany, Italy, the UK, the Netherlands, the US and India.

The report reveals Australian consumers place a greater premium on service than most.

According to the survey, 33% of Australian consumers say businesses pay less attention to giving good customer service in the current economy; the second highest result after Italy.

Australia had the highest number of respondents who believe companies are “helpful but don’t do anything extra to keep their business”, with 46% believing this is true.

Meanwhile, 25% of Australian respondents believe companies take their business for granted, while 10% think companies don’t care about their business – a result that has more than doubled from a year ago.

Only 2% of Australian consumers believe companies “generally exceed their expectations” for customer service, compared to 6% in the US and 11% in India.

However, the survey also shows 73% of Australian consumers are willing to spend more money with a company they believe provides excellent service.

For those businesses that do deliver good service, Australian consumers are willing to pay an average of 12% more, up from 8% last year.

Christine Wakefield, American Express vice president of world service, says customer attitudes towards service are clearly changing because people expect more in return for their hard-earned money.

“Consumers say they gravitate to companies that are investing in the customer experience and going beyond the basic transaction to recognise loyalty and ensure their customers get the most value for their money,” Wakefield says.

“It’s simple – providing great service can lead to business growth.”

Brett Whitford, executive director of the Customer Service Institute of Australia, says training and developing frontline staff is the most obvious way to deliver outstanding service.

“Generally, delivering great service comes down to the small touches and showing interest in customers, asking how they are, recognising their custom and rewarding loyalty,” he says.

According to Whitford, it costs more to give bad service than to give good service.

“For example, if someone walks into a store and steals an item worth $1,000, the business can account for that,” he says.

“But if someone walks into a store with the intention of spending $1,000, but there’s no one to help them so they work out, you can’t account for that.”

Whitford says start-ups can’t afford to offer bad service, suggesting they “map out” the customer experience.

“The biggest mistake start-ups make is mapping out their business plan and mapping out their cashflow but failing to map out their customer experience,” he says.

“People tend to leave the customer experience to chance. Start-ups should ensure they map out each customer experience moment and make sure each moment is exceptional.”

Wakefield offers the following tips for delivering exceptional service:

  • Know your customer. Good service comes down to your ability to form relationships with customers.
    For regular customers, get to know their likes, dislikes and purchasing behaviour so that you can enhance their experience with your business. For top customers, look at how you can give special treatment.
  • Make it easy for customers to do business with you. Listen to your customers and use their feedback to improve your product and service.
  • Solve your customer’s problems. A customer should never walk away feeling as though something has been left unresolved. Go out of your way to address the situation.
  • Look for opportunities to make an impression. Understand and act on the notion that every customer interaction is an opportunity to create a connection and to drive customer loyalty and engagement.
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