By Daniel Hunter

81 per cent of consumers in the UK believe that small independently or locally owned businesses provide the best customer service experience, according to the latest Global Customer Service Barometer from American Express.

The report, which compares and contrasts consumer views on customer service across the globe, has found that the majority of the UK public believes that small businesses excel in both their knowledge of the products or services that they provide and in their understanding of the needs of their customers.

This sway of public opinion is also likely to be having a positive effect on small business turnover, with two thirds of UK consumers (66 per cent) saying that they are willing to spend more for products and services provided by a company that offers excellent customer service.

On average these consumers would be willing to pay 11 per cent more on a product or service, although one in ten said that they would pay as much as 20 per cent.

“When customers know that a company is listening to them and addressing their needs quickly and responsively, they will not only spend more — they will spread the word to others as well," Simon Chrisp, Head of Customer Service at American Express said.

"Great customer service is great business and a competitive advantage when done right. In the UK more than one in five people have said that they would simply refuse to do business with a company that provides poor service. Only consumers in Australia and Japan are seen to be more discerning.”

Simon Chrisp, gives some thoughts on what companies can do more of to help good customer service:

· Great service starts with the people who deliver it

Motivate and enable your employees to go above and beyond for your customers.

· It’s all about relationships

Good service comes down to forming relationships with customers. Look at customer service as an opportunity to deepen your connection with your customers, not just as a transaction to be completed.

· Make it easy for customers to do business with you

Listen to your customers and use their feedback to improve your product and service.

· Exceeding expectations is easier than you think

Customers aren’t unreasonable and don’t except every problem to be solved instantly — but they simply want to be treated like individuals, know that you genuinely care about their issue, and are working hard to address it.

· Listen to your employees

They are closest to your customers and understand the most about what customers want and need. Don’t miss out on their incredibly valuable insight

· Seek opportunities to make an impression

Understand and act on the notion that every customer interaction is an opportunity to create a connection and to drive customer loyalty and engagement.

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