American Express Customer Service Infographic

Customers Who Use Social Media Are More Vocal & Spend More

American Express Customer Service InfographicAre customers who use social media different than other customers? The American Express 2012 Global Customer Service Barometer (pdf) says Yes, they are. In addition to establishing a few key differences between consumers who use social media and those who do not, the AMEX Barometer sheds light on general consumer attitudes towards customer service and exposes some interesting information as well as confirms some obvious beliefs.

The infographic to the right sums up a few of the many findings from the AMEX Barometer:

Understanding Customer Expectations

The AMEX Barometer underscores some key learnings for customer service, particularly about what consumers expect from companies.

  • 1/3 of Consumers think businesses are paying less attention to providing good customer service. This is about the same as in years prior. 32% believe this to be true versus 28% in 2010. The key takeaway is that a full 1/3 of customers approach your business thinking you are not trying.
  • 7% of consumers said that the customer service experiences they have with companies usually ‘exceed their expectations’. This number is the same as two years ago and shows how much opportunity exists to exceed expectations.
  • 55% of consumers have intended to conduct a business transaction or make a purchase, but decided not to based on a poor service experience. Yes, bad customer service loses you business. Not exactly breaking news. However, the fact that over half of the survey respondents walked away from a company over bad service within the last year is eye opening.
  • 35% of consumers have lost their temper with a customer service professional. The most common actions taken after “losing their temper” were asking to speak to a supervisor and threatening to switch to a competitor.
  • 38% of people prefer a website or email to deal with a “simple inquiry;” however, for a “difficult inquiry” this number drops to 9%. Speaking to a real person on the phone or in person is heavily preferred for both “more complex” and “difficult” inquiries. So much for social media curing all customer service ills.

Social Media Customer Service Presents Opportunities

One of the interesting facets of this year’s AMEX Barometer was the differentiation shown between consumers who use social media and those who do not.

  • Social media users have a bigger reach. In the stating-the-patently-obvious category, we have data showing that social media users tell more people about both positive and negative experiences. Where an opportunity arises is the spread between social media users and the general population, telling an average of 42 people versus 15 respectively.

> Caveat: There is a potential flaw in this conclusion. The AMEX analysis is purely quantitative and not at all qualitative. Saying that a social media users present a greater opportunity because they tell more people ignores two important aspects: 1) Knowing what percent of “telling” by social media consumers is actually on social media. Social media users talk to their friends on the phone like everyone else. 2) Assuming that the quality of a recommendation made through social media is as strong as a recommendation made via other means like phone or face-to-face conversation. It might not be.

  • 1 in 5 consumers have used social media to get a customer service response. Obviously, this trend is no surprise, but it is interesting to see the extent of penetration at around 20%.
  • Social media users are more willing than the general population to pay for great customer service. 21% of social media users are willing to spend more for great customer service versus only 13% for the general population. While this is probably reflective of the demographic differences between social media users and the general population (more educated, more affluent), the “why” behind it is relatively irrelevant; it exposes an opportunity to create more profitable relationships with social media users.

The AMEX Barometer sheds some interesting light on the state of customer service in the year 2012 and helps add some clarity to the oft-discussed but little-studied topic of social media and its impact on customer service. Check out the full reports for more informative customer service statistics.

Quick Methodological Notes: The AMEX Barometer was conducted through an online survey, so it will not be representative of the general population but only the population that has Internet access. For most brands, this is an irrelevant difference, but not for all. Also, the conclusions above are based on a global survey. For the difference broken down by country, please see the American Express 2012 Global Customer Service – Market Findings (pdf) report.


By Adam Toporek. Adam Toporek is an internationally recognized customer service expert, keynote speaker, and workshop leader. He is the author of Be Your Customer's Hero: Real-World Tips & Techniques for the Service Front Lines (2015), as well as the founder of the popular Customers That Stick® blog and co-host of the Crack the Customer Code podcast.

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