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June 13, 2011 – Survey: customer service matters

June 15, 2011
Filed under Features

It’s no secret that customer service is important. Happy customers buy product, bring friends and return again and again. But most are also willing to spend more and travel further to a business with good customer service, a recent survey found.

Seventy percent of U.S. customers polled in the American Express Global Customer Service Barometer said they would spend more with a company that they believe provides excellent customer service and has a history of doing so. On average, they’re willing to spend 13 percent more, according to the survey of 1,018 consumers age 18 and older conducted by Echo Research Feb. 2-10. Canadian respondents of the survey said they’d spend 12 percent more on average.

Jeff Blenkush, general manager of St. Cloud Suzuki in Waite Park, Minn., said his customers don’t tend to spend more in single visits, but they have returned to his dealership for multiple purchases because of the service the staff provides.

“We’ve always tried to be the best in the area,” he said. “We don’t want to be the place that’s talked about as, ‘I wouldn’t go there because they’re terrible to work with.’”

A good reputation can be crucial to a dealership’s success. Ninety-one percent of customers said good customer service has an impact on a company’s brand. And many are willing to make concessions to find the right business. Nearly 60 percent said they would try a new brand or company to get better service; 22 percent said they would travel a longer distance, and 19 percent would sacrifice convenience.

To that end, St. Cloud Suzuki pays close attention to its customers and does not take them for granted.

“We make sure we listen to what they want and try to do as close to what they’re looking for as possible,” Blenkush said.

If customers become unhappy, the ramifications for dealerships are plentiful. On average, customers tell 16 people about bad experiences, while only telling nine about good experiences. Also, more than three-quarters of customers have not completed a transaction or not made an intended purchase because of a poor customer service experience.

Blenkush tries to resolve each customer issue he encounters differently as each customer and each concern is unique.

“I guess you always try to meet them in the middle because if you have a customer that’s mad, it’s usually due to something that you’re not going to be able to fully do for them, so you try to meet them somewhere in the middle grounds,” he said.

Meeting a customer halfway can go a long way. Otherwise, customers might become unhappy and lose their cool. Fifty-six percent of Americans polled admitted to losing their temper with a customer service professional, while 61 percent of Canadians reported the same.

Luckily, the simple act of providing better service helps immensely. Nearly all (95 percent) of customers polled said they would be more likely to return to purchase a gift for someone from a company at which they had a good customer service experience.

And with small businesses, customers expect better service than they do with larger companies, which can be good for many dealers. Eighty-one percent of survey takers said small businesses place a greater emphasis on customer service.

“I guess [powersports customers] would expect the same thing similar to what you’d expect at a car dealer — a fair price, fully disclosed fees and ultimately their vehicle to be delivered to them in a timely manner,” Blenkush said, adding that his dealership strives to meet those expectations.

Customer service has always been important, but for many dealers, it has even more meaning than in did in the past, as each works to keep current customers and hopes to attract new shoppers.

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