Shoppers Will Switch for Customer Service

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Consumers know time is a commodity too, like ball bearings and Barbie dolls. So when they're doing their holiday shopping or are online looking for a good deal on gifts, they don't want to wait or find problems completing a purchase, and they expect fair treatment from retailers.

With the average American adult expected to spend $749 on the holidays this year (including gifts, decorations and parties and social gatherings), that "time is a commodity, too" theme gains particular relevance.

Exhibit "A" is a report out from software giant Oracle ( ORCL) that says 81% of shoppers would pay extra for superior customer service. What's more, 44% of shoppers say they would pay a premium of 5% or more to get that superior service.

The study of 1,400 shoppers across Europe, conducted in June, shows that so-called consumer "brands" are overrated and that shoppers would ditch one brand for another in a nanosecond if they thought they could get better customer service.

At the very least, consumers don't seem to define "brands" solely by price or even by quality, although both issues are important to customers. What could tip the balance in consumer buying decisions these days seems to be good old-fashioned customer service.

Or as Oracle puts it, the "customer experience."

"Getting customer experience right can help increase revenue and win customers away from competing organizations," says Danny Rippon, CRM business solutions director at Oracle. "By creating a consistent and connected experience across all points of customer contact -- including the increasingly important social channel -- businesses can clearly differentiate themselves.

"As an absolute fundamental, businesses must ensure that their customer experience systems can support fulfillment and service to the extent demanded by consumers, while at all times making it as simple as possible for them to interact with the brand," he adds. "This is the key both to winning new customers and retaining them for the long-haul."

Asked how they would spend more cash with a particular retailers, consumers cited the following:
  • 40% said they would spend more for an improved "overall customer experience."
  • 35% said they would do more business with companies that handled their questions better.

Consumers have seemingly lost patience with lousy customer service, a byproduct of the "time is a commodity" theme and one that can really damage retailers' bottom lines. According to Oracle, 70% of shoppers have stopped doing business with companies over a single lousy customer service experience. Worse for those companies, 92% of those shoppers went directly to a competitor to do their shopping.