There are few things more widely publicised in our circles than the ramifications of poor customer service. We all know that a business that doesn’t take care of its customers is on a hiding to nothing, particularly as the cost of attracting new customers often far outstrips the relatively small outlay required to give them satisfying consumer experiences. But that doesn’t mean that seeing quantifiable data on the issue doesn’t drive home just how serious the issue can be, particularly for smaller enterprises.
Research released by enterprise communications provider O2 Business has revealed that almost three-quarters of consumers will never forgive a small business for poor customer service. Additionally, more than two-thirds of customers will share this bad experience with an average of eight family members and friends. At a time when virality has become the yardstick by which all communication is measured, clearly its easier to provide a quality service than quash reputation-damaging word-of-mouth, particularly once it has spread to the web.
Fortunately, whilst communication and technology can act to your brand’s detriment, they can also be its guardian angel. The study shows that consumers often identify with brands they are better able to communicate with, demonstrating that 71% of customers expect to be able to contact a business quickly and with minimum fuss. Additionally, perceptions of smaller enterprises improve if they are seen to have a significant presence online; 63% of customers felt those that had a web and social media presence were progressive and up-to-date and 46% felt they were more customer-focused. On the flip side, a quarter said that if a local small business didn’t even maintain a website, they simply wouldn’t use it.
Attitudes to how open different industries were to using technology to support their customer service yielded some interesting results. Whilst its unsurprising to see that local independent shops fared worst, with 39% of consumers feeling they were poorly supported by communications technology, a few curve balls included restaurants and bars, attracting poor ratings from 24% and 12% of customers respectively. However, most surprising – and injecting a hefty dose of irony into the proceedings – computing and web design services edged in just ahead of restaurants at 23% and were rated as some of the worst offenders for failing to use technology to support their customers.
A case of ‘physician heal thyself’, perhaps?