Compared to First Quarter, Americans Feel Customer Service is Getting Even Worse

Consumers between ages 45-54 are most likely to say they are dissatisfied with customer service today.

Alpharetta, Georgia, United States – September 9, 2010 – Empathica Inc., a leading provider of Customer Experience Management (CEM) solutions to some of the world’s most respected brands, announced that results of its Second Quarter survey of 11,000 American consumers indicates that customer service is becoming worse than it was in the First Quarter of 2010.

Last quarter 55.2% of American consumers said customer service was getting worse, but in Q2 that number rose to 61.7%. Likewise, the 31.5% who responded that it wasn’t getting worse in Q1, fell to 24.8% in Q2.

Of the 4,000 Canadians who were also surveyed in addition to the 11,000 Americans, 50.3% likewise felt customer service was getting worse (compared to 45.4% in Q1). So while Canadian consumers don’t feel service is suffering as much as Americans do, the downward trend remains the same in both countries.

“This is an increasingly problematic concern for retailers,” said Dr. Gary Edwards, EVP of Client Services at Empathica. “Along with economic uncertainty, we’re finding consumers have become more impatient to receive the service they desire when they visit retail, restaurant and financial establishments today. Of course there are the companies that prove to be the exception, but for others it appears they are failing to recognize the potential consequences poor customer service can have on the overall success of their business.”

Age Matters When it Comes to Customer Service Expectations
According to survey results, American consumers between the age 45 and 54 are most dissatisfied with customer service today, yet those 55–64 had the largest percentage increase in dissatisfaction between quarters.

Percentage of Americans Say Customer Service is Getting Worse

“American consumers have been hard hit by the economy across the board,” explained Edwards. “When they do choose to spend their hard-earned money and don’t have an excellent experience, they’re definitely less likely to visit that establishment again. Expectations for service are still elevated, perhaps out of frustration. Retailers need to take note of this and ensure they create in-store and online experiences as enjoyable and hassle-free as possible. Retailers need to be clear in identifying what they’re doing right in addressing customer needs, and implement initiatives that will optimize employee behavior to deliver these elements consistently in every location, every day.” Downward pricing pressures oftentimes lead retailers to simply cut staff, without consideration of how it will impact the customer experience. That said, the answer is rarely to “spend your way clear” by adding more labor costs. “Discover the elements critical to the experience of your brand, and consider eliminating elements that are not.” added Edwards.

What Retailers Can do to Effect Positive Customer Experiences
So what can retailers do to bring the promise of great customer service, and the reality of delivering great customer service, back into alignment? Dr. Gary Edwards offers some advice:

Allow CEM to Have a Say. Allow Customer Experience Management individuals a seat at senior management meetings. This will give the customer a voice in company-wide initiatives and make it a priority to deliver on differentiated service at critical customer touch-points.

Don’t Be Defensive. Don’t take a defensive view that better customer service automatically translates into labor cost implications (i.e. more people on the floor), and thus justifies sweeping it under the table. Oftentimes, customer service can be drastically elevated by simply instructing employees about what they need to do better and by the same token, where they can reduce effort to create efficiency. It can be achieved by knowing, first and foremost, what your customers want that drives their loyalty. This leads to the next point.

Conduct Better Training. Reinforce the right behaviors with team awards, and make sure employees have action items coming out of company meetings. Don’t assume employees will know how to deliver on customer expectations; instead, make them privy to customer feedback and daily reinforcement of what you and the customer expect of them.

Discover the Pathways to Customer Loyalty. Map out the ideal experience journey of a customer. Then verify the unique elements for your brand that drives a pathway to loyalty, via advanced statistical path analyses.

Obsessively Monitor and Manage the Detail. Every retail or restaurant unit requires vigilant and constant monitoring and management to ensure that what matters to customers is being delivered. Attending to the small details that matter leads to large rewards in customer advocacy.

About the Empathica Consumer Insights Panel:
The Empathica Consumer Insights serves as an authoritative voice on consumer based economic indicators; the retail, financial services and restaurant industries; consumer shopping intentions and customer satisfaction as reported by thousands of consumers in the U.S. and Canada. Results from Empathica’s Consumer Insights, led by Dr. Gary Edwards and Empathica’s Consumer Insights’ team, are published on a quarterly basis. The results are based on outbound Internet surveys with Empathica’s growing Insights Panel, derived from more than 30 million consumer surveys per year. Results have been weighted to reflect latest Census distributions in the U.S. and in Canada, including Region, Gender, Age and Income.

Aforementioned data is reported by the Empathica Consumer Insights Panel – Q2 2010, Issue 2.

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