Nearly every consumer—88 percent in all—has reached out to a customer service department at some time in the past year, according to a recent Consumer Reports National Research Center survey of 1,016 adults.
The study also reveals that poor customer service experiences are common and that half of all consumers surveyed indicate that they left a store without making their planned purchase due to poor service. What’s more, over half—57 percent—hung up the telephone without resolving their issue with a customer service department, according to MarketingCharts. Consumer Reports indicates that women ranked as being more annoyed than men; people over the age of 45 also surveyed as more annoyed.
Consumer Reports ranked the top irritants by the percent at which consumers became highly annoyed (in bold, below) with various levels of annoyance options provided. The highest follow:
- Unable to reach a live person by phone: 75 percent
- Telephone representative was rude, condescending: 75 percent
- Call was disconnected: 74 percent
- In-store representative was rude, condescending: 71 percent
- Call was disconnected, unable to reach original representative: 71 percent
- Transferred to an unhelpful rep or received wrong information: 70 percent
- Customer service number was hidden or not provided: 68 percent
- Experienced long wait times: 66 percent
- Many telephone menu steps were required: 66 percent
- Repeatedly asked for the same information: 66 percent
- Provided solution was useless: 65 percent
- Salesperson ignored consumer: 64 percent
- Consumer unsure whether on hold or disconnected: 62 percent
- Unable to speak with a supervisor: 62 percent
- Needed option was not available on the telephone menu: 61 percent
- Voice recognition system does not appropriately work: 61 percent
- Consumer received a sales pitch for unrelated goods, services: 60 percent
- Salesperson was too pushy: 60 percent
Consumer Reports notes that, in a world in which Amazon Kindle Fire tablets offer immediate access to a live, onscreen tech advisor with the click of a “Mayday” button and Neiman Marcus enables its customers to photograph shoes in a magazine and conduct an in-store search, consumers remain frustrated. “Many companies today are simply awful at resolving customer problems, despite investments in whiz-bang technologies and considerable advertising about their customer focus,” Scott Broetzmann, president of Customer Care Measurement & Consulting tells Consumer Reports. “Customers spend valuable time and invest considerable effort—and get little in return,” he adds
Meanwhile, a study from Mattersight released in 2015, and based on a survey of 1,000 consumers, reveals that nearly two-thirds of United States consumers who contact customer service centers are frustrated before even speaking to a representative, according to MarketingCharts.
Arizona State University’s latest version of the school’s “Customer Rage” study discovered that, while companies are doing all the right things, they are doing them in all the wrong ways. Consider that, while toll-free numbers provide benefits, these may be negated with complex automated response systems; live service representatives may be offered, but they are very limited in their decision-making abilities or there are simply not enough of them to handle incoming calls, writes Consumer Reports.
Figures have not significantly increased and have dropped in some cases, but that may be due to how we are serviced and demographics. Jack Abelson, a retail-industry consultant, points out that younger consumers, such as millennials, have never experienced excellent customer service and are unaware that they are missing out on this. Others say today’s consumers are less annoyed because we have become so used to serving ourselves; for instance at the self-serve grocery store checkout or when banking online, according to Consumer Reports. “Companies are making it easier for customers to use simple solutions, like FAQs,” says Shep Hyken, a customer-care consultant. There are also online how-to videos that enable customers to get info quickly.
The Better Business Bureau (BBB) notes that today’s consumer is more proactive and able to review a business first as opposed to complaining later, notes Consumer Reports. Also, consumers are able to lodge complaints or post reviews directly on the BBB website; Consumer Reports suggests to consumers that, “Prevention may be better than a cure, so try to be picky about where you do business.”
MarketingCharts; What Are Consumers’ Top Customer Service Irritants?; August 20, 2015.
Consumer Reports; The Problem with Customer Service: Our new survey shows that company promises and even new technology haven’t made the customer-service experience much less painful; July 29, 2015.