Majority of US consumers agree that customer service is getting worse

Empathica Consumers Insights survey indicates that while Americans are spending less, retailers must cope with higher customer expectations. 
American and Canadian consumers believe that customer service is suffering in todays economy, according to a survey of 13,000 shoppers by Empathica, provider of Customer Experience Management (CEM) solutions to some of the worlds most respected brands.
Fifty-five per cent of US consumers feel their countrys customer service is getting worse, 13% are unsure, and 32% say they havent seen service suffering in this economy. Canadians were less negative about their customer service, with 45% of consumers indicating customer service has gotten worse, compared to 39% who said it hasnt gotten worse, and 16% reporting that they are unsure.


Regionally in the US, those in the South were more apt to say customer service is getting worse (58% of respondents), in contrast to the West who had 49% in agreement.

One in Five Consumers Value Good Service Over Good Food
Those who think customer service doesnt matter should be aware. The data also revealed that customer service is so important to US consumers, that one in five respondents said they value good customer service over good food. Younger people (18-34) were the bulk of respondents who responded this way, but were also the age group most forgiving of a bad experience at a restaurant. Older customers (55+) were more willing to interact with management to either express their dissatisfaction, or offer a compliment. 
With consumers reducing their spending, they consequently have heightened expectations when they do go out, explained Gary Edwards, EVP of Client Services at Empathica. There is less tolerance for poor service, which is a huge challenge for casual and fine dining restaurant brands struggling with lower traffic, less incoming cash and higher expectations to deliver.
The survey found that those who receive poor service - even at a restaurant theyve been to several times - can cause huge damage to a brand. One in four U.S. consumers stated they would tell others not to go there in addition to never going again. In comparison, even more Canadians (28%) would take the same actions. 

Despite Reduced Spending, Consumers are More Loyal to Brands They Love
While overall restaurant spending was down in 2009, the survey showed increased customer loyalty. In the current economy, consumers indicated they have been just as loyal (68.3%) or more loyal (15%) to specific restaurants. The now commonplace practice of discounting and couponing, something unheard of for most casual dining brands just a year or two ago, seeks to entice new customers.
A coupon is most likely to encourage American consumers to try a new restaurant (44%), yet only 28% of Canadians agreed. In fact, a restaurant coupon or discount offer recently prompted 62% of Americans to go to a restaurant they might not have otherwise visited. Thirty-nine percent of Canadian consumers said the same thing.
Expectations around the future economic outlook in part dictates consumer motivations for visiting a restaurant, explained Edwards. In this instance, our survey showed that while 67% of Canadians are optimistic about their economy, Americans are much more divided. Their consumer confidence is influencing their discretionary spending.
About the Empathica Consumer Insights Panel
The Empathica Consumer Insights serves as an authoritative voice on consumer based economic indicators; the retail, financial services and restaurant industries; consumer shopping intentions and customer satisfaction as reported by thousands of consumers in the US and Canada. Results from Empathicas Consumer Insights, led by Dr. Gary Edwards and Empathicas Consumer Insights team, are published on a quarterly basis. The results are based on outbound Internet surveys with Empathicas growing Insights Panel, derived from more than 30 million consumer surveys per year. Results have been weighted to reflect latest Census distributions in the US and in Canada, including Region, Gender, Age and Income.
About Empathica
Empathica provides Customer Experience Management programs to more than 200 of the worlds leading brands, ranging from multi-unit retailers, to banks and restaurants. Its rich analysis of survey data using state-of-the-art surveying and dashboard reporting software allows for performance-improvement solutions, evidence-based marketing insights, and customer experience management consulting. Annually, Empathicas 30 million customer surveys in 17 languages reach more than 70,000 locations. A privately-held organization, Empathica is headquartered in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada and also has offices in Birmingham, England and Alpharetta, GA, in the United States.
For more information:
Tanya Pring                                         
Gary Topiol
Fieldworks Marketing                             
Tel: (+44) 1435 873080                          

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