Findings from the recently released ninth annual Accenture Global Consumer Pulse Survey demonstrate that customer service is just as important as price to consumers in choosing among retailers. Yet poor customer service remains an everyday lament about retailers, and horse racetracks have traditionally been roundly criticized in this regard.

Accenture surveyed 12,867 customers in 32 countries, including 1,256 in the United States, and asked them about their dealings with ten mainline retail industries. The study revealed that dissatisfaction is worsening across the globe in spite of increasingly sophisticated digital technologies available to retailers to interact with and assist customers.

About 51 percent of U. S. respondents indicated that they had switched from one service provider to another in the past year as a result of subpar customer service. Importantly, 81 percent of these said that “the company could have done something different to prevent them from switching.” Accenture estimates that switching behavior currently puts $1.3 trillion of revenue up for grabs in the U. S. market.

The most prominent reasons for consumer displeasure are having to contact a company more than once over the same issue; being put on hold too long and shuffled to multiple representatives; failing to deliver on promises; and the overall difficulty of doing business.

Word-of-mouth—opinions spread from person-to-person and virally on social media–was valued most by consumers in sizing up a company’s offerings and reputation. Another critical influence was customers’ reviews about products and services on commercial portals like Yelp.

Customers have come to expect companies to use digital technologies to “tailor” experiences for them and to protect data privacy; yet only 18 percent of the respondents in the Accenture study said that companies do so effectively. Even firms with the most advanced online websites like banks and hotels fared poorly on this criterion.

The implications are evident for gaining, retaining, and losing customers in all kinds of enterprises, but particularly in firms like advance deposit wagering operations and racing partnerships that conduct a great deal of business online or by phone.

Copyright © 2014 Blood-Horse Publications. Used with permission.