When we read about customer service in the media in New Zealand, it’s nearly always prefaced by the word “poor”. The typical story has a customer berating a company for letting them down or not responding quickly or adequately to their issue.

But statistics show that New Zealand customer service is improving – it’s just that Kiwis aren’t believing that improvement. And this is the nub of the argument why New Zealand businesses have to be incredibly careful when they’re in contact with their customers – in short, they’re a pretty picky group and perception is everything when it comes to customer service.

Last year’s fifth annual KiwiHost Perception of Customer Service Survey of more than 1250 New Zealanders revealed that half of the 16 industries involved came out with a Happiness rating of 50 or more out of 100 – double that of 2012 when only four sectors reached the same mark.

The perception of satisfactory customer service levels increased by 16% to 64% (compared to 48% in 2012 and 54% in 2010), which is a really good movement in the right direction only countered by figures which show that only 32% of customers believe that customer service is improving.

This is the dangerous statistic and perhaps reveals why customers, on the whole, are surprised by good customer service: they’re bombarded daily by examples of poor service online in social media and in the traditional media.

KiwiHost Managing Director Jared Brixton said the country had hit a “critical point” where the general level of service had improved to a level at which most organisations are providing somewhat satisfactory service.

“If satisfaction levels continue to improve at current levels, those that are not delivering good customer service could find that the responses to their failings become more strident and obvious than in the past, particularly with tools like social media sharing now available to customers.”

More than 52% of those surveyed had posted positive feedback via social media, while 30% had used social media to respond negatively to poor service.

“If companies use social media to respond to both positive and negative feedback, the survey would suggest that they stand a better chance of retaining their customers.”

And that’s why, when you’re dealing with a contact centre, you need an organisation you can trust and one which can deliver across all levels of contact – be that traditional call centres or new social media channels.

Another survey of 1000 New Zealanders by Colmar Brunton last year  revealed more people (70%) told others about their good experiences than shared their bad experiences (58%). But 41% told 11 or more people about bad experiences compared to only 15% who told at least 11 people about positive experiences. And what’s more those who had bad experiences were more likely to pick up the phone (41%) or post on Facebook (20%) to spread the word. By comparison only 25% of those who shared good experiences used the phone and 13% posted on Facebook.

If you want a contact centre which understands the importance of customer service to your business contact Corporate Connect.