Australians hate it when we get poor customer service, whether that's over the telephone or online. But do we really want to pay more for the privilege?
Picture by London Looks
I've been musing on this topic because of a recent survey conducted by CRM software company RightNow into local attitudes to customer service. The survey (which covered 700 Australians spread across all states) came to two interesting if controversial conclusions: most of us say we'd pay for products if there was better customer service on offer, and we'd be willing to pay almost 10% more to do so.
The study provides some concrete data to back up a pretty obvious conclusion: we're not that impressed with the customer service on offer from many major organisations. Telecommunications scored particularly poorly, with 59% of those surveyed saying they'd had a bad customer service experience (closely followed by ISPs on 44%). A similar percentage across all industries (58%) said that they had changed providers as a result of bad experiences.
With those bad experiences in mind, it's not surprising that 86% of those surveyed said that they would actually be willing to pay more for products that came with decent customer service. The average amount extra which people were prepared to pay was 8.5%.
While not doubting the sentiment, I'm more than a little sceptical about those numbers, especially those about what people intend to do. It's very easy to claim that you'd be willing to spend more money on a decent product backed with real customer service, but it's quite another thing to do it. After all, Telstra remains Australia's biggest telco and ISP, despite admitting this year that it needs to spend millions of dollars to fix up its lamentable customer service record. And yet we haven't made the switch in massive numbers, despite a huge number of alternatives.
Last week's Choice study on our banking habits is also instructive. While whining about banks is a national habit, and finance didn't come off much better than telcos in the RightNow survey, just 8% of us actually bothered to make the switch.
As well as the hassles involved in switching, Aussie cynicism may well be a factor here. "It'll be just as bad with the competition" is a common sentiment (and not always an unfounded one -- if you have an ADSL service that's Telstra-based but onsold by someone else, you'll end up facing the Telstra wall of hopeless at some point). There's also a sense of righteous indignation: why should I pay extra just so something actually works?
The reality is also that we often don't have much choice, or think we don't. I always found Vodafone's telephone support for its 3G broadband service lamentable and best and incomprehensible at worst, but the combination of a 24-month contract and its apparent dominance in overseas roaming stopped me from switching for ages. It was only when the contract expired and I realised its overseas roaming mostly didn't work that I finally got rid of it. I should have manned up earlier -- I'd have saved countless hours trying to get its buggy software to behave -- but I can't blame Vodafone for my failure to do so. That part was my fault. Of course, if it had offered decent service, it might not have lost me as a customer, so there's not a lot of win happening here.
Do you pay extra money for a product because you're confident the back-up service is better? Tell us about it in the comments.
Lifehacker's weekly Loaded column looks at better ways to manage (and stop worrying about) your money.