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Survey says: good customer service tops with customers

By Julie King |

It's official. Forget the prizes. Forget gifts or donations to charities. If you want to express appreciation for your customer's business, do it with good customer service. That is the finding of Show Me the Service, a recent customer loyalty poll conducted by Ipsos Reid on behalf of TD Canada Trust.

Seventy four per cent of Canadian consumers said that good service was the best way for companies to express appreciation for their business, with just 13% preferring a gift and 7% perferring a donation to a charity on their behalf.

What's more, convenient hours can make a difference, as 97% of respondents said this was very important to them.

So what makes for good customer service? TD noted that the survey confirmed some well-established tenets of customer service.

  • 94% of Canadians have shared both their good and bad customer service stories with family and friends;
  • 80% said that their stories influenced the purchasing habits of their friends and family;
  • 84% of Canadians agree that it only takes one experience to make or break their relationship with a particular brand or company; and
  • 60% of respondents said they had complained about bad service in writing at least once.

"Canadians' passion for the topic of customer service is astonishing," says Tim Hockey, group head of personal banking at TD Canada Trust. "We talk to about 400,000 customers every year in our research, and I personally meet with hundreds of them, and our findings are highly consistent with those of this survey. People really do remember every great experience and they never forget a bad one. Listening to their stories helps us constantly improve our customer service."

National and regional scorecards

Respondents felt that the best customer service in the world could be found in Canada. Seventy seven per cent said that Canada is the best place for service from any type of company, while only 8% selected the United States and 4% selected a country other than these two.

Nonetheless, Canadian firms should not be complacent. Only 62% of respondents said that they had last received great customer service in the past month, with substantial variation across the provinces.

The top rated provinces for customer service were Manitoba and Saskatchewan, each tied at 71%, followed by BC at 70%. Quebec and Alberta got the worst customer service ratings; only 54% and 53% of respondents respectively stated that they had received great customer service in the past month. In Alberta 14% of respondents said that they had not received great customer service in more than a year.

"It's not at all surprising that customer service was rated lowest in my home province, Alberta," said Jeff Mowatt, an Alberta-based consultant and author who specializes in customer service training. "In this overheated-understaffed economy, managers are struggling to hold on to even mediocre employees. That's understandable."

"What's less forgivable is that these same managers are not investing in professional customer service training. They are getting away with providing lousy service because business is good. For now," said Mowatt. "Booms do fade away. And these businesses are setting themselves up for a major shake-up when thing slow down. As they say, if you want to look at how well a company is doing now look their sales. If you want to know how well the company will be doing in future, look at their service."

Regional difference in customer service perceptions

The way to deliver good customer service will depend on your business location.

In Quebec, the majority of respondents felt that respect was the most important service attribute, while Atlantic Canadians preferred friendliness. Meanwhile in the other provinces consumers selected knowledgeable employees as the most important service attribute a company can provide.

Customer loyalty programs were popular across the country. Ninety per cent of Canadians stated that they belong to at least one program. The numbers were even higher that the national average in Atlantic Canada, where 98% said that they belonged to at least one program.

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