As consumers are becoming increasingly savvy about where they choose to spend their money, advertising is no longer the primary factor in buying decisions, being replaced by pricing, quality and customer service, according to a survey by Spherion. This article is copyright 2011 The Best Customer Guide.

Nearly three-quarters (72%) of the consumers surveyed said that good customer service heavily influences their purchasing decisions when considering a product or service.

However, a reputation for good customer service is hard to earn. The survey found that, over the previous three months, only 32% of people had good customer service experiences at least 80% of the time. Most people's experiences were worse, however, with 23% having experienced good customer service only 60% - 80% of the time, and 23% having experienced good service 40% - 60% of the time. Approximately 20% reported receiving good service less than 40% of the time.

"The survey proves what we have believed for many years, and that is the importance of delivering excellent customer service as a means to establish customer loyalty and earn more market share," explained Joanie Ruge, senior vice president of field operations for Spherion.

The survey also found that, when people experienced bad service, 69% will tell a friend about what happened to them. More than half (59%) said they would tell a company representative, and 37% said they would post their opinion on a social network such as Facebook or Twitter. One in five (19%) said they would choose to write a review online, and 8% said they would go as far as contacting the media.

A bad experience is also hard for a company to overcome. For example, 48% of people who experience poor customer service said they demand an apology, refund, incentives, or coupons to return. More than one in ten (13%) wouldn't even find these amends acceptable and would refuse to repeat their business no matter what was offered.

While earning back lost trust can be difficult, keeping that trust can mean a company earns a lot of genuine loyalty. Only 1% of those surveyed said that good or great customer service wouldn't make them more likely to buy a product or use a service again. In other words, some 99% of people would want to repeat a purchase if they had a great experience.

Customer service traits that are rated as the most important were also the simplest. Courteous and well-mannered treatment and clear communication were each named most important by 90% of respondents. Other major factors in good service were competency and knowledge of the service staff, ability to resolve issues in a timely manner, attentiveness and expectations being met.

Of those surveyed, 73% said they would tell a friend if they had a good experience. And the word of a friend counts for quite a lot; 66% of those surveyed said they were "very likely" to do business with a company based on a trusted friend's recommendation, and 29% were "somewhat likely."

On the other hand, half (51%) of people said they were very unlikely to do business with a company if it had a bad recommendation from someone they knew. Only 10% were somewhat or very likely to ignore that advice and do business with the company anyway.