Just over half of businesses in Ireland use customer feedback to regularly make changes to their business practices, according to a new survey.
While technology has afforded businesses unprecedented access to customers, it also poses a range of new challenges.
Consumers now possess the power to express their feelings about a particular good or service on public forums which can have extremely detrimental effects on the image of a brand.
There have been myriad examples in recent years of companies suffering serious reputational damage as a result of poor treatment of a particular customer or an ill-advised social media campaign.
A new survey, which was conducted by Aer Lingus in tandem with the Fingal Chamber of Commerce, found that just 56pc of businesses frequently measure customer feedback about their services.
Just under a third (30pc) said they 'sometimes' monitor customer feedback, while 14pc said they rarely pay attention to what their customers have to say. That is despite the fact that 95pc of businesses said they believed customer experience was a key indicator of how successful a business is.
Perhaps tellingly, the survey findings show over half of respondents (53pc) believe institutional barriers within their organisations prevent them from providing quality customer service.
Aer Lingus conducted the survey as part of a series of initiatives planned to support small and medium firms in Ireland as part of its new CSR TakeOff Foundation.
The company said the survey offered important insights into the behavioural attitudes of businesses operating in Ireland today.
"Good customer service must be at the heart of any business, regardless of size.
"If your customers aren't satisfied, your business cannot succeed. It's that simple," said Michelle McLoughlin, head of consumer insights for Aer Lingus.
"Business owners cannot underestimate the value of gathering key insights and data through customer relations. It can help take a business in a new direction or develop new business touchpoints," Ms McLoughlin added.
More than a third of businesses (35pc) admitted they did not actively seek out customer feedback to help them improve their offerings, while almost of a quarter (23pc) said they did not train employees in customer service and relationship building skills.
Most businesses (81pc) believed they had a 'good' or better awareness of the different ways in which their company can interact with customers.
The difficulty of keeping pace with technological advancements was cited by 73pc of respondents, who stated that new points of contacts which consumers now expect to have available provide a constant challenge.
It was almost unanimously agreed by 98pc of respondents that customer experience was the responsibility of everyone within an organisation and not just one individual or team.
More than three-quarters (81pc) said that communicating with customers through social media was important for their business.
The results also show that ceos tend to be the driving force behind customer service initiatives, with 82pc of respondents saying that the chief executive was the key mover when it comes to embarking on consumer-focused initiatives.
Mapping the decision-making process has become a key driver of marketing strategies over the past number of years, yet the survey findings show that only 45pc of companies actually engage in the process.
"Fundamentally, the customer journey will inform the direction of your business brand. SMEs cannot bury their heads in the sand when it comes to this," Michelle McLoughlin added.