By Aimee Chanthadavong

While they dislike the idea of confrontation, Australian consumers are among the most vocal in the world when it comes to bad service and are using social media as their key platform.

The American Express global customer service barometer – a survey conducted in ten countries, exploring public attitudes and preferences towards customer service – shows that when Australian consumers are victim of bad service, 65 per cent will tell other people about the experience, second only to Mexico. They will tell an average of 23 people about service compared to the ten people who will hear about a good service experience.

Christine Wakefield, head of world service for American Express, told RetailBiz that good customer service is a key driver for getting people in-store.

“Consumers are shopping online more now than ever before.  Superior customer service delivered in-store by service professionals is the key ingredient that can set bricks and mortar businesses apart from their online competitors,” she said. 

“Our research reveals that Australian consumers are willing to spend an average of 12 per cent more with a company that provides excellent service – so great service can also be extremely profitable.  If businesses don’t respond to customer feedback and continue to deliver poor service, it’s simple. People will shop elsewhere.”

The American Express research found that poor service can create lasting brand damage. Globally, Australia ranks first for those who say a bad service experience has the greatest impact on their impression of a company’s brand.

The barometer found that typical scripted responses, especially by telephone service staff, also really infuriate people such as “your call is important to us please continue to hold”.

“Every customer wants to feel valued and know that their dollar is appreciated.  Anything that makes them feel unimportant such as being ignored or inconvenienced are major causes of customer dissatisfaction,” Wakefield said.

“If a customer can see that the person serving them genuinely cares, they will be more forgiving of the occasional accidental slip up. A warm welcome and smile when you first connect with a potential customer is a great start to the experience and can really set the interaction up for success.”

But 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 per cent have ever lost their temper with a customer service professional, only four out of ten 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 per cent 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 per cent complaining on Facebook, 4 per cent on blogs and 3 per cent on Tweets.

According to Wakefield, social media is giving people another platform to express themselves and have their opinions heard.

“Social media has certainly made it much simpler for bad service stories to be shared beyond a person’s immediate social circle. The power of social media has broad appeal and reach. There have been a number of cases where service complaints have gone viral and generated such interest that they have been reported in mainstream news,” she said.

“Consumers are also increasingly using forums and online communities to influence their purchasing decisions and those of others.  None of which would be possible without social media.”