The Slow, Simmering Rage of Customers

by Jeannie Walters

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Customer complaints are at an all-time high.

And there are so many ways to really tick off a customer. And so many ways to avoid it. We keep learning about “best practices” and sharing what has worked, and yet our customers, in general, are still simmering with rage.

customer complaints

The Customer Rage Study of 2013 gives us some fascinating insight into the worsening state of customer complaints and complaint resolution.

Check out these highlights from the study: 

  • The amount of people reporting customer problems went up from 32 percent in the 1976 study, to 45 percent in 2011, and then 50 percent in 2013.
  • The number of households experiencing customer rage went up from 60 percent just two years ago to 68 percent this year.
  • We’re yelling and cursing at customer-service representatives more when dealing with the worst problems, with yelling up from 25 percent in previous rage studies to 36 percent now, and cursing up from 7 to 13 percent.
  • Despite the rise of the Internet, people are still 11 times more likely to complain via phone than Web.
  • However, customer-complaint posting on social-networking sites, such as Facebook, has nearly doubled from 19 to 35 percent since 2011.
  • Most of those who reported a complaint – 56 percent – say they got absolutely nothing as a result, up 9 percentage points since 2011.
  • When companies added free remedies, such as an apology, to any other monetary relief they gave customers, satisfaction doubled from 37 to 74 percent.
  • If the customer was satisfied or at least pacified, he or she only told an average of 10 to 16 people about the problem, but if customers were left dissatisfied, they told an average of about 28 people.

customer complaints

Most companies aren’t getting better at resolving customer complaints.

Why is that? Here is what I believe:

  • We are still not hiring the right people. People are not skill sets. When dealing with customer complaints directly, these people have to show great judgment and have a mindset that is service-focused, not process-focused.
  • The right people who do get hired are not trained, empowered or respected. Customer service and support members have to deal with being viewed as the low man on the totem pole at work. They aren’t rewarded for saving customer relationships. They aren’t empowered to truly address customer issues.
  • Best practices aren’t truly visible for the entire organization. In some cases, the same company may have an exceptional social media team who visibly deals with customers issues with empathy while at the same time earning a reputation for terrible customer service for those who call for support. Nobody is an island.
  • Customer-centric cultures win. While there is a lot of lip service around what this means, many companies simply don’t deliver on what it takes. It must come from the top.

What do you think is leading to the lack of progress with customer service?

Image Credits: Jeremiah Ro, FindYourSearch via Creative Commons

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Jeannie Walters

Jeannie Walters is the CEO/Founder of Experience Investigators™ by 360Connext, a global Customer Experience consulting firm. She has 20 years of experience helping companies improve loyalty and retention, employee engagement, and overall customer experience. Jeannie is a Certified Customer Experience Professional (CCXP,) a charter member of the Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA,) a Professional Member of the National Speakers Association, a Forbes Coaches Council Member, a C-Suite Network Advisor, a LinkedIn Learning and Lynda.com instructor, and a TEDx speaker. Learn more here.

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