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    Holiday Season Customer Service as Important as Price, If Not More So: Survey

    NEW YORK -- With the pressures of the holiday season upon them, Americans say they'll punish retailers that are naughty when it comes to service -- and spend more with the nice ones, according to a random-digit-dial survey of more than 1,000 consumers commissioned by Katzenbach Partners LLC, a management consulting firm based here.

    NEW YORK -- With the pressures of the holiday season upon them, Americans say they'll punish retailers that are naughty when it comes to service -- and spend more with the nice ones, according to a random-digit-dial survey of more than 1,000 consumers commissioned by Katzenbach Partners LLC, a management consulting firm based here.

    More than three out of five Americans surveyed said they won't make future purchases from a store or service provider with whom they have a bad customer service experience this holiday season. Meanwhile, the vast majority of people - 82 percent -- said they'll spend more money leading up to the holidays where they receive better customer service.

    Katzenbach Partners performed the survey in conjunction with a soon-to-be-released report that investigates why some companies succeed and others stumble on customer service -- even though it's one of the few areas where differentiation and competitive advantage are possible.

    "It's hard to over-estimate how important customer service is when it comes to consumers' deciding where to spend," said Traci Entel, a principal at Katzenbach Partners and co-author of the upcoming report, The Empathy Engine: Turning Customer Service Into a Sustainable Advantage. "Yet companies clearly aren't delivering the service that customers need and want."

    Entel said fewer than one in five consumers believe that customer service has improved over the past few years while 41 percent say it's gotten worse, according to the survey.

    "And the desire for good service -- and the minimal tolerance for poor service -- don't change during the holidays," Entel said. "While we might be willing to put up with crowds and longer lines, people say they'll spend more where the service is good and not let the holidays be the excuse where it's bad."

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