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Customer service is an integral piece of the brand loyalty puzzle. If not executed properly and in a seamless fashion, it’s often the first thing consumers point to in a negative customer experience.
But, according to a new report from the American Express Customer Service Barometer, 81 percent of Americans report that businesses are meeting or exceeding their expectations for service, compared to 67 percent in 2014.
Loyalty360 talked to Raymond Joabar, EVP at American Express, to learn more about this report.
What is your biggest takeaway from this customer service data and what impact will it have on the holiday season and beyond?
Joabar: The important takeaway for businesses–especially now as the holiday season brings them in contact with so many customers–is that good service turns customers into advocates. Great care is a powerful marketing tool because nine in 10 Americans tell others about their service experiences, both good and bad. Most Americans (70 percent) also say that they have spent more with a company because of positive service experiences.
But it’s a double-edged sword: More than half of Americans have abandoned a purchase or transaction due to poor service.
In this day and age, it seems very difficult for a brand to overcome bad publicity surrounding customer service. What can brands do to try and ensure a seamless customer experience?
Joabar: No matter how a customer chooses to connect, the best service is simple, fast, and personally relevant. Eighty-one percent of Americans say that getting a satisfactory answer is very important to their servicing satisfaction, followed by knowledgeable assistance (74 percent), personalized care (47 percent), and appreciation for them as a customer (45 percent).
At American Express, we have a service philosophy we call Relationship Care®, which is all about serving customers in their channel of choice and treating interactions as relationship-deepening moments.
Are you surprised by the figure of 81 percent of businesses are meeting or exceeding customer expectations?
Joabar: It’s not what you might expect, given the social media venting we’ve all seen from consumers who’ve been disappointed by companies.
But companies are definitely paying more attention to service. Forty percent of survey respondents said that businesses have increased their focus on service, up from 26 percent in 2014. We see similar trends being reported by third-party experts in the industries where we operate; for example, overall satisfaction has gone up in both the credit card sector and among personal finance companies according to studies like J.D. Power.
What is the state of digital customer engagement and what trends to you foresee?
Joabar: More than ever, consumers value efficient, seamless service that fits into the organic flow of their lives. The future of service lies in delivering consistent omnichannel experiences that recognize the length, breadth, and depth of customer relationships–something we at Amex call service with memory.
We’ve noticed that our own customers who interact with us digitally are more engaged and also more satisfied with the service they receive. Ninety-one percent of American Express customers would recommend us to a friend based on their experience in the mobile app, and 86 percent based on their web experience.
Beyond making it easy for customers to connect and self-serve, technology should make those connections more relevant by recognizing history and preferences.
What was the biggest surprise from this data?
Joabar: We were intrigued to see that men report telling twice as many friends and family members about their service experiences as women. Men and women are equally likely to talk about their experiences, but men tell an average of 15 people about their good experiences and 21 people about the poor ones, while women report telling seven and 10, respectively.
We also learned that Millennials are willing to spend more than other generations to do business with a company that has provided good service experiences. On average, Americans are willing to spend 17 percent more, but Millennials say they’ll pay 21 percent additional to get great care.
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