Compassion, not response time, is the key to quality customer service, new research shows.

A study by workforce development firm AcheiveGlobal revealed that the emotional aspect of customer service is most critical, as 1 in 3 consumers prefer being treated well over having their issues immediately resolved.

"Understanding that emotion — the human connection — is at the heart of the customer experience is key to building customer loyalty and advocacy in today’s socially connected and ever-evolving world," said Sharon Daniels, CEO of AchieveGlobal. "While slashed prices and special promotions may get consumers in the door, an inability to connect on an emotional and human level while delivering service will hamper any business’ customer engagement efforts."

The behaviors most irritating to consumers stem from detached emotional awareness and connection, the study found. Nearly half of the shoppers said being rude, short, nasty, unhelpful and impatient were the greatest customer service mistakes. Other behaviors customers found frustrating were customer-service representatives who use a canned script to deal with issues and those who tell customers "no" or "I don't know."

With so many retail and brand options available, customers are quick to defect once they have been wronged. The study discovered that half of shoppers would try a competitor after just one bad experience, while 93 percent will defect after a maximum of three poor customer service experiences.

"Delivering on these simple but critical expectations should be central to any company’s business strategy," Daniels said. "Consumers are emotional beings, and training customer-facing employees to recognize emotions and respond in a concerned, effective and professional manner is essential to owning the customer experience."

The study was based on surveys of 5,500 consumers in the U.S., China, Singapore, Germany, the U.K. and Brazil.

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