Sages survey of over 2,000 UK consumers found 47% of respondents believed the current economic conditions had led them to place a higher premium on the overall customer experience companies offer. But just one in five (22%) respondents felt British businesses had made more of an effort to go the extra mile for their customers during the recession, and 24% said they thought companies were actually making less of an effort to go above and beyond the call of duty for their customers.
As the squeeze on personal finances makes consumers ever more selective with their purchases, Sage found companies were given on average one chance to make amends for a disappointing experience, but for 30% of consumers there were no second chances when a company fell short the first time around.
Across the UK, consumers in East Anglia emerged as the least tolerant of a disappointing customer experience, with 36% saying they would give a company just one chance to impress before turning their back on them. Londoners were the most willing to put up with a disappointing customer experience, with 75% saying they would give a company at least a second chance before giving up on them.
Younger consumers, particularly those aged between 18 and 25, were among the most forgiving respondents. 74% of consumers in this age-group said they would be prepared to give one more chance to a company that delivered a one-off disappointing experience. Older consumers were far less tolerant, with 41% of respondents in the over 55s age-group saying they would abandon a company entirely after just one underwhelming experience.
Dr Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, a Consumer Psychologist from Goldsmiths College, and an expert on human behaviours, commented: These findings show how demanding British consumers are today. Indeed, it appears that the recession has challenged consumers to be much more selective and careful, which has ended up making them wiser, too. This is definitely positive for Britain because it will continue to force businesses to raise the bar and deliver better services at a better value. But even that is not enough if consumers dont feel that companies are paying attention to their needs. Today, more than ever, companies need to attend to the psychology of the consumer, which involves being aware of their needs and maintaining a personalised relationship with each customer. If they cannot do this they will really struggle to survive. If they can, they will most probably seduce consumers and keep them loyal to their brand.
Kevin Thompson, Head of Customer Services for Sages Small Business Division, said: With competition fierce and money tight, its more important than ever for businesses to up their game by going above and beyond the standard level of service that consumers expect. Businesses that are unable to break the cycle of formalised service levels will struggle to deliver the wow factor customers clearly want.
Sage found consumers value a simple smile, or a friendly greeting above anything else in terms of the experience they want from dealing with a company. Respondents also rated treating customers as individuals rather than numbers as one of the key ingredients in delivering a superior customer experience. When it came to the gender split, men were more likely to prioritise speed and efficiency when judging customer experience, while women were more likely to favour companies that took the time to get to know them and understand their wants and needs.
Kevin Thompson continued: Extraordinary customer experience is about transcending the purely functional relationship companies have with consumers, and delivering something extra which connects them with their customers on a more personal, emotional level. As our research shows, its about seeing a customer as an individual and having the flexibility to adapt what you do to suit their needs.
As part of its Extra Mile campaign to recognise and reward UK businesses that are delivering an extraordinary customer experience, Sage is calling on members of the public to share their stories of UK businesses which have gone above and beyond the call of duty for customers. Post your story on Twitter referencing #extramile to nominate a business for a Public Display of Thanks from Sage.