Image: G.I. Barone Image: G.I. Barone

The walls are closing in on businesses that continue to offer poor levels of customer service. In this age of social media and instant communication, companies that fail to keep their customers happy will quickly earn a potentially damaging reputation.

A new study from virtual assistant specialist, ava, has found just how much customers' expectations have grown.

More than half (51%) of people surveyed in the UK said they would happily pay more for a product or a service if it meant they receive a better service.

There was an interesting gender divide, with 64% of men saying they wouldn't mind forking out extra, whereas only 36% of women agreed. Surely there's a sweet spot between offering an attractive price and quality customer care?

Which customer service failings annoy us the most?

Everybody has experienced bad service at some point, and ava's research found that even in the digital era, it seems that ineffective call centres are still the biggest cause of customer unrest, with one in three suggesting that being held in a phone queue is the most infuriating customer service failing.

Meanwhile, 29% said that "unhelpful store staff" were their biggest bugbear and 21% claimed they were most annoyed by poor websites that lack relevant information.

One in ten (11%) highlighted slow email responses as they main gripe, and perhaps surprisingly, just 6% said failing to address social media queries in timely fashion were their biggest annoyance.

Lucie Greenwood, sales manager at ava, said: "As many industries become increasingly competitive, businesses that fail to address these issues will inevitably fall behind.

“In 2016 there’s simply no room for bad customer service. With so many comparison websites out there and with people placing a lot of store in review platforms like Trustpilot, businesses will lose trade if their customers have a bad experience. It’s as simple as that. The fact that so many people would actually forego a lower price in order to guarantee a better level of service speaks volumes."