SCORE Small Business Blog

What Do Customers Want? They’re Telling Us Loud and Clear

When it comes to sales, customer service is the issue that can make or break your business, but the 2012 American Express Global Customer Service Barometer shows businesses are increasingly failing to live up to customers’ service expectations. When businesses fall short, more customers are spreading the (bad) news.

More than nine out of ten Americans surveyed (93 percent) say companies fail to exceed their service expectations. More than three in five (61 percent) feel companies have not increased their focus on providing better service. In fact, of this group, 32 percent feel businesses are paying less attention to providing good customer service – an increase from 26 percent who said this last year.

More than half of all survey respondents (55 percent) said they had walked away from an intended purchase in the past year because they had a poor customer service experience. What drives customers the craziest? The four biggest customer service complaints were:

  1. Rudeness: insensitive or unresponsive customer service people (33 percent)
  2. Passing the Buck:  Being shuffled around with no resolution of the issue (26 percent)
  3. The Waiting Game:  Waiting too long to have an issue resolved (10 percent)
  4. Being Boomeranged:  Forced to continually follow up on an issue (10 percent)

Exactly how long will consumers wait for customer service?  The average consumer hits his or her boiling point after 13 minutes on hold. In person, customers will wait an average of 12 minutes for help at retail stores, restaurants or other establishments before they start to get steamed.

Clearly, the solution to providing stellar service is simple. Customers are telling us exactly what they want—all we have to do is listen. Take responsibility, resolve problems quickly without making the customer do all the work, and provide fast service. Simple enough, right?

In today’s economy, service is one of the ways small businesses can still distinguish themselves from the pack. If you’re letting your service slip, you’re only hurting yourself.

If you need more motivation to improve your customer service, consider this: Respondents say they’d spend an average of 13 percent more with companies that deliver stellar service. Need help evaluating your business’s customer service? A SCORE mentor can help. Visit the SCORE website to get matched with a mentor and get free business advice 24/7.

Rieva LesonskyCEO, GrowBiz Media
Rieva is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a content and consulting company specializing in covering small businesses and entrepreneurship. She was formerly Editorial Director of Entrepreneur Magazine and has written several books about small business and entrepreneurship. | @rieva | More from Rieva

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