When asked about the best way for companies to express appreciation for their business, three out of four Canadian consumers (74%) cited good service - a preference which out-ranked all other forms of thanks, including gifts (13%) and donations to charity on the customer's behalf (7%).
Interestingly, according to the TD Bank Financial Group's Customer Loyalty Poll (conducted by Ipsos Reid), while good service is considered a reward for loyal patronage, almost all consumers surveyed (97%) felt that convenient hours of business are a prerequisite as well.
Service ideas confirmed
The survey confirmed some well-established tenets of customer service. For example, most consumers (84%) agreed that one experience can make or break their relationship with a particular brand or company.
And nearly all (94%) said they have shared stories of both good and bad customer service with friends and family, with 80% insisting that their customer service stories have influenced the purchasing habits of others. Not surprisingly, the word of mouth method of expressing discontent is used more than formal complaint channels, with only 60% saying that they have complained in writing to a company about bad service.
According to 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."
The survey highlighted a number of strong regional differences in perceptions of customer service:
- Atlantic Canadians like customer loyalty programmes, with almost all (98%) indicating that they belong to at least one programme. At national level, 90% of Canadians overall said they belong to at least one loyalty programme.
- When asked which service attributes are the most important to them, Quebecers are most likely to choose respect, of those Atlantic Canadians polled, the highest percent prefer friendliness, and the rest of Canada prefers "knowledgeable".
- Atlantic Canadians (97%) and Albertans (96%) are the most likely to share service stories, whether good or bad, with their friends and relatives.
- BC and Ontario residents are most likely to write a complaint letter (64% and 63% respectively), while Albertans are the least likely to do so (47%).
Canadians are, it seems, highly patriotic. Overall, the country got high marks from its own consumers for good customer service. More than three-quarters of Canadians (77%) said that Canada is the best place for service from any type of company, while the United States achieved only 8%, and other countries scored only 4% or less.
However, when asked about the last time they received "great service", only 62% of Canadians said it was within the past month. On a regional basis, Manitoba/Saskatchewan (71%) and BC (70%) were almost tied in having the most people who had great service during the past month. At the opposite end of the spectrum, Quebecers (54%) and Albertans (53%) were the least likely to have received great service within the past month. Indeed, 14% of Albertans claim it has been more than a year since they experienced great service, and 10% of Quebecers say they have never received great service from a company.