The customer is always right
Australian consumers are among the most vocal in the world when they're victims of bad service; however, they baulk at confrontation.
Instead, consumers favour venting their frustrations more widely among their social circle, with reports of bad service outstripping good experiences by more than two to one.
These are among a number of findings released today in The American Express Global Customer Service Barometer - a survey conducted in 10 countries, exploring public attitudes and preferences towards customer service.
When they're victims of bad service, Australians voice their frustration more often and to more people than most other countries surveyed.
65% will always tell other people about the experience, second only to Mexico. Australians will tell an average of 23 people about bad service compared to the 10 people who will hear about a good service experience. The number of people Australians complain to is only eclipsed by Italy and India.
While Australians are vocal in their criticism a bad service experience, it takes Australians more than most to lose their temper at the perpetrator. Only 61% have ever lost their temper with a customer service professional, only four out of 10 countries are rated lower.
Australians' reluctance to speak up when bad service is delivered is supported by an American Express dining study which found that on average, people are 50% more likely to complain to others, than complain directly to the dining establishment. The study highlighted the popularity of social media as an outlet to air grievances, with 14% complaining on Facebook, 4% on blogs and 3% on Tweets.
"Businesses need to find new ways of gauging customer satisfaction given the reluctance of many to directly say what they really think," AMEX head of world service Christine Wakefield said.
"Getting service right or swiftly making amends when things go awry has never been more important with social media making it much simpler for customers to air their grievances and cause irreparable damage to a company's reputation."
She said businesses should use feedback - good or bad - to raise service standards.
"Every single experience has an impact well beyond just one customer. Because consumers share their experiences so widely, every interaction counts. That's why finding quality employees and ensuring they have the skills to make a connection, is central to giving customers a consistently excellent experience."
Brett Whitford, of the Customer Service Institute of Australia, said: "Businesses that will perform the best in the current retail climate are the ones that don't sacrifice on the quality of their service and who have built-up a loyal clientele and have invested in the training and development of staff."
Tips for properly listening to the customer:
1. Make it simple for customers to provide feedback via a suggestion box, feedback survey or company website.
2. Be receptive to customer feedback. View it as constructive and something that can be used to improve your business.
3. When possible, respond to customers personally, make them feel special and acknowledge that they have been heard.
4. Be intuitive to more subtle signs that a customer isn't happy such as reading body language or tone of voice.
5. Anticipate the needs of your customer - don't wait to be asked before acting.