SINGAPOREANS believe that the emotional aspect of service delivery has the greatest impact on customer service, according to corporate soft-skills training provider AchieveGlobal.

Its latest customer experience study which polled 514 Singaporeans in November last year, found that 80 per cent of respondents deemed "being heard and respected" as more important to them than having their problem resolved.

The top three negative face-to-face interactions that respondents faced as customers were having to repeat information, service providers showing no concern and service providers being distracted.

About 20 per cent of respondents stated that they felt valued by customer service representatives, and 15 per cent felt that the service employee was on their side.

Respondents stated preference for face-to-face communication (38 per cent) or by telephone (35 per cent) over e-mail (24 per cent) or SMS (2 per cent).

Human interaction remains crucial to customers, with 38 per cent saying that they get annoyed by automated responses on the phone.

While not in direct communication with a company, more than 35 per cent of respondents have posted a negative comment online about a bad customer experience.

A good majority of respondents (92 per cent) said that they would defect to another company after three or fewer bad experiences, while 33 per cent are likely to refuse business with a company after a single bad experience.

"A negative customer experience not only threatens sales but also the reputation of the brand. It is thus paramount for any organisation to institute a culture of service supported by effective employee development programmes around customer experience," said Andrew Calvert, regional director and solution architect at AchieveGlobal Singapore.

"In today's economy, there are just too many choices. So businesses can't afford to loose customers."

Mr Calvert said that despite Singapore's low ranking in customer service surveys, he believed that service here has improved.

"As the city has grown a more international profile, I think Singapore has definitely improved. We've trained a lot more. I remember GEMS, the WSQ platform, all of those things have helped."