Greenhouse Canada

Social media raises the stakes for customer service

May 11, 2012  By Canadian Garden Centre & Nursery

May 11, 2012, New York — Shoppers are growing more frustrated with
customer service and businesses are feeling the heat as consumers tell
an increasing number of people about both their outstanding and poor
service experiences.

The 2012 American Express Global Customer Service Barometer also found
that consumers who have used social media for service wield the greatest
amount of influence. They tell significantly more people about their
service experiences, and say they’d spend more with companies who
deliver great service.

The survey, which was conducted in the U.S. and ten other countries,
also revealed a sorry state of service in general. Nine in ten Americans
surveyed (93 per cent) said that companies fail to exceed their service
expectations. What’s more, one out of two respondents (55 per cent)
walked away from an intended purchase in the past year because of a poor
customer service experience.


The most popular ways consumers address service inquiries continue to be
speaking to a live representative (either on the phone or
face-to-face), and through company website or e-mail. That said, one in
five consumers (17 per cent) said they’ve used social media at least
once in the last year to obtain a customer service response, and this
relatively small group of consumers is extremely engaged and vocal.

“Delivering outstanding service creates impassioned advocates and can
serve as a powerful marketing weapon for companies,” said Jim Bush,
executive vice-president for world service with American Express. “For
example, consumers who have used social media for service in the last
year are willing to pay a 21 per cent premium at companies that provide
great service. They also tell three times as many people about positive
service experiences compared to the general population. Ultimately,
getting service right with these social media savvy consumers can help a
business grow.”

People who had used social media for customer service at least once in
the last year were willing to spend substantially more (21 per cent)
with companies they believed provided great service. This stands in
contrast with the general population (13 per cent more) and those who
had not used social media for customer service (11 per cent more). They
were also far more vocal about service experiences, both good and bad.
In addition, more than 80 per cent of these consumers said they’ve
bailed on a purchase because of a poor service experience, compared to
55 per cent overall.

Consumers who have used social media for customer service do it for a
number of reasons.  The “social top five” activities for these Americans

  • Seeking an actual response from a company about a service issue (50 per cent)
  • Praising a company for a great service experience (48 per cent)
  • Sharing information about a service experience with a wider audience (47 per cent)
  • Venting frustration about a poor service experience (46 per cent)
  • Asking other users how to have better service experiences (43 per cent)

However, these consumers felt companies are getting better at social
media service: 60 per cent of this group felt companies have improved
their response times through social media over the past year.

Eyes on the prize

Social media is not the only way people are spreading the word about
their customer service experiences. The general population will tell
significantly more people about their customer service experiences in
2012 than in 2011, highlighting the importance for businesses of
treating every customer interaction as an opportunity to  build customer
loyalty and a positive brand image.

  • Americans will tell an average of 15 people about positive
    experiences (up 67 per cent from the nine people they told last year)
  • Americans will tell an average of 24 people about poor experiences (up 50 per cent from the 16 people they told in 2011)

More than three in five Americans (61 per cent) felt companies have not
increased their focus on providing better service. Of this group, 32 per
cent felt businesses are paying less attention to providing good
customer service – an increase from 2011 (26 per cent).

This dissatisfaction with the state of customer service overall helps
ensure companies that deliver great experiences are recognized – and

“Companies must keep their eyes on the prize when it comes to customer
service,” said Bush. “Outstanding service means exceeding customers’
expectations as you seek to meet their needs. Companies that do this
consistently understand that exceptional service is a real competitive

Top customer service gripes

Nerves are fraying because of subpar service. More than a third of
respondents (35 per cent) reported that they have lost their temper with
a service professional in the past year. When asked about the top
customer service irritants most likely to lead them to switch brands in
2012, eight in ten Americans (79 per cent) cited one of these “big four"

Rudeness from an insensitive or unresponsive customer service representative (33 per cent)
Passing the buck by being shuffled around with no resolution of the issue (26 per cent)
Waiting too long to have an issue resolved (10 per cent)
Being boomeranged and forced to continually follow up on an issue (10 per cent)

How long are Americans willing to wait for customer service before
slamming down the receiver? The average consumer hits his or her boiling
point after 13 minutes on hold, creating a golden opportunity for
companies to increase customer satisfaction by beating the clock.
Similarly, Americans will wait an average of 12 minutes for in-person
help at establishments such as banks, retail stores or restaurants.

Tips for delivering better service

Clearly, many companies have room for improvement in the eyes of
consumers both in the U.S. and around the world. American Express offers
the following tips to help almost any company provide a better service
experience and improve how it is viewed by its customers:

  • Great service starts with the people who deliver it. Motivate and
    enable your employees to go above and beyond for your customers.
  • It’s all about relationships. Good service comes down to forming
    relationships with customers. Look at customer service as an opportunity
    to deepen your connection with your customers, not just as a
    transaction to be completed.
  • Make it easy for customers to do business with you. Listen to your
    customers and use their feedback to improve your product and service.
  • Exceeding expectations is easier than you think. Customers aren’t
    unreasonable and don’t except every problem to be solved instantly. They
    simply want to be treated like individuals, know that you genuinely
    care about their issue, and are working hard to address it.
  • Listen to your employees. They are closest to your customers and
    understand the most about what customers want and need. Don’t miss out
    on their incredibly valuable insight.
  • Seek 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.

The American Express Global Customer Service Barometer surveyed a random
sample of U.S. consumers over the age of 18. The survey was conducted
Feb. 22 to 29 and has a margin of error of +/- 3.1 per cent.

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