Cash-strapped consumers are demanding more for their money from companies in terms customer experience, with nearly one in three saying they would walk away from a brand for good if it failed to deliver good customer service first time around.
A survey of over 2,000 UK consumers by business software provider Sage UK found that almost half (47 per cent) believe that the current economic climate means that they now put a higher premium on the overall customer experience companies offer.
But fewer than a quarter (22 per cent) respondents felt that British businesses had made more of an effort to go the extra mile for their customers during the recession, and a similar proportion (24 per cent) said they thought companies were actually making less of an effort for their customers.
As consumers become ever-more selective, the survey found that they give companies on average just one chance to make amends for a disappointing experience. But as far as almost a third (30 per cent) of consumers are concerned, there are no second chances.
Younger consumers, particularly those aged between 18 and 25, were among the most forgiving respondents. Three-quartersof consumers in this age-group said they would be prepared to give one more chance to a company that delivered a one-off disappointing experience.
Older consumers were far less tolerant, with four out of 10 of respondents aged over 55 saying they would abandon a company entirely after just one underwhelming experience.
Dr Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, a Consumer Psychologist from Goldsmiths College, said that the findings highlight how demanding British consumers have become.
"It appears that the recession has challenged consumers to be much more selective and careful, which has ended up making them wiser, too. This is definitely positive, because it will continue to force businesses to raise the bar and deliver better services at a better value.
"But even that is not enough if consumers don't feel that companies are paying attention to their needs. Today, more than ever, companies need to attend to the psychology of the consumer, which involves being aware of their needs and maintaining a personalised relationship with each customer. If they cannot do this they will really struggle to survive. If they can, they will most probably seduce consumers and keep them loyal to their brand."
Kevin Thompson, Head of Customer Services for Sage's Small Business Division, said that businesses that are unable to break the cycle of formalised service levels will struggle to deliver the 'wow factor' customers clearly want.
"Extraordinary customer experience is about transcending the purely functional relationship companies have with consumers, and delivering something extra which connects them with their customers on a more personal, emotional level. As our research shows, it's about seeing a customer as an individual and having the flexibility to adapt what you do to suit their needs."