American Express survey: U.S. consumers will spend 13% more for good customer service

New York City -- Americans are placing an even greater premium on quality customer service this year, with 70% willing to spend an average of 13% more with companies they believe provide excellent customer service, according to the American Express Global Customer Service Barometer. This is up from 2010, when 58% said they would spend an average of 9% more for great service.

The survey, conducted in the United States and nine other countries, found that despite the greater value Americans are placing on customer service, many businesses are not making the grade.  

Six in 10 Americans (60%) believe businesses have not increased their focus on providing good customer service, up from 55% in 2010. Among this group, 26% think companies are actually paying less attention to service. One bright spot: small businesses. Four in five Americans (81%) agree that smaller companies place a greater emphasis on customer service than large businesses.

"Getting service right is more than just a nice to do; it's a must do," said Jim Bush, executive VP World Service. "American consumers are willing to spend more with companies that provide outstanding service, and they will also tell, on average, twice as many people about bad service than they are about good service. Ultimately, great service can drive sales and customer loyalty."

In other results:

• Seventy-eight percent of U.S. consumers have not made an intended purchase because of a poor service experience. On the other hand, 59% said they would try a new brand or company for a better service experience.

• Consumers will tell others about their customer service experiences, both good and bad, with the bad news reaching more ears. Americans say they tell an average of nine people about good experiences, and nearly twice as many (16 people) about poor ones.

• Customers who have a fantastic service experience say friendly representatives (65%) who are ultimately able to solve their concerns (66%) are most influential.

• More than half of respondents (56%) admit to having lost their temper with a customer service professional. Consumers age 30-49 are the most frequently angered (61%).

The survey found that businesses may want to rethink their traditional service scripts. Customers are equally irked by three of the most frequently-used customer service phrases -- with the Internet generation particularly put off by not getting a quick answer and people 50 and older grimacing over hold music. The three phrases are: “We're unable to answer your question. Please call xxx-xxx-xxxx to speak to a representative from xxx team; We're sorry, but we're experiencing unusually heavy call volumes. You can hold or try back at another time; and "Your call is important to us. Please continue to hold."

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