American Express survey: Customers will spend more with companies that provide excellent service

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New York City A majority of Americans report that quality customer service is more important to them in today’s economic environment (61%) and will spend an average of 9% more when they believe a company provides excellent service. These are among the findings of the American Express Global Customer Service Barometer, a survey conducted in the United States and 11 other countries exploring attitudes and preferences toward customer service.

“Customers want and expect superior service,” said Jim Bush, executive VP World Service. “Especially in this tight economic environment, consumers are focused on getting good value for their money. Many consumers say companies haven’t done enough to improve their approach to service in this economy, and yet it’s clear they’re willing to spend more with those that deliver excellent service -- suggesting substantial growth opportunities for businesses that get customer service right. It’s important to see customer service as an investment, not a cost.”

Nine in 10 Americans (91%) consider the level of customer service important when deciding to do business with a company. But only one-quarter (24%) believe companies value their business and will go the extra mile to keep it. Most feel businesses can do more to retain their loyalty, and 48% feel companies are helpful but don’t do anything extra to keep their business. Worse, 21% believe that companies take their business for granted.

Contrary to conventional wisdom, customers are more inclined to talk about a positive experience than complain about a negative one, according to the survey. Three-quarters (75%) are very likely to speak positively about a company after a good service experience in contrast with 59% who are very likely to speak negatively about a company after poor service.

Good service experiences also carry more weight than bad ones when Americans make future spending decisions. Consumers are far more likely to give a company repeat business after a good service experience (81%) than they are to never do business with a company again after a poor experience (52%).

Consumers say the three most influential factors when deciding which companies they do business with include personal experience (98%), a company’s reputation or brand (92%), and recommendations from friends and family (88%).

Nearly half (48%) of consumers report always or often using an online posting or blog to get other’s opinions about a company’s customer service reputation. But when consumers go online they’re looking for “watch outs,” saying they put greater credence in negative reviews on blogs and social networking sites than on positive ones (57% and 48%, respectively).