With customer problems at a record high, more people seek “revenge”

A new study finds that Americans are having more problems with corporate products and services than ever before, and a higher percentage of them are actively seeking “revenge” for their problems.

About 74% of the 1,000 consumers surveyed said they had a problem with the product or service in the past year. That’s up from 66% in 2020, when the last study was conducted, and 56% in 2017. Only 32% told researchers they had a problem in 1976, when a similar version of the study was first conducted.

The percentage of consumers who have taken action to settle a result against a company through measures such as harassment or public shaming in person or online has tripled to 9% from 3% in 2020, according to the study. It reversed the downward trend in terms of revenge-seeking behaviour: the average percentage of clients seeking revenge between 2003 and 2017 was 17%.

said Scott Pruitzman, president and CEO of Customer Care Measurements & Consulting, which runs a so-called National Customer Anger Survey with the WP Carey School of Business at Arizona State University. The research, which builds on a study first conducted by the White House in 1976, albeit under a different name, found that 32% of complainants posted their most serious issues on social media — more than double the proportion of those who did in 2020. They study.

“Most people now use a computer, they use some form of social media at this point, and there is a process of democratization of complaints,” said Mr. Protzmann.

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But the findings mirror findings last year by consulting firm Forrester that the quality of customer experience delivered by consumer-facing brands and government agencies declined in the year to April 2022. Forrester said its research examines 96,211 U.S. consumers’ perceptions of 221 organizations. .

and the American Customer Satisfaction Index, which analyzes customer satisfaction with more than 400 companies in 47 industries on a scale from 0 to 100, to 73.1 in 2022 from 77 in 2018, the largest drop in the index’s 28-year history. Customer satisfaction is improving some industries, including consumer shipping, athletic shoes, soft drinks, hospitals, and online and specialty retail, but are falling across fast food, hotels and gas stations, according to the latest index report.

According to the National Customer Anger Study, increased dissatisfaction is associated with more frequent and serious complaints.

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The latest wave of research found that 79% of customers complained about their most serious problem to the company at fault, up from 72% in 2020. And 43% said they raised their voices to a customer service representative to show their displeasure with their most serious problem. A problem, up from 35% in 2017, the last time the question was asked in the survey.

Consumers said some types of companies handled complaints better than others, with sectors like food delivery, package delivery and banking outperforming like pay TV, air travel and automobiles.

Mr. Protzmann said that customer dissatisfaction hurts companies in more ways than one.

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“It costs companies a lot of money in future business, but there’s also the cost of serving really angry customers,” said Mr. Protzmann. “If you think about the average number of contacts that really angry customers make, each time they contact a company, it costs the company money.”

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Borrowing a strategy from airlines and credit card companies, some companies have begun offering prompt customer service as a benefit to their paying members, their biggest spenders and their most loyal fans.

At the same time, more companies are turning to automation to cut costs and cover staff shortages in standard customer service. Companies are pushing customers toward phone lines and web chats that are handled by artificial intelligence or other technologies that can respond to basic requests, leaving human staff to handle more complex service queries.

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Angry research found that this strategy tended to anger customers more. Survey respondents stated their frustrations with customer service as being “being forced to listen to long messages before you are allowed to speak to a representative” and “knowing how or where to contact the company”, which covers the experience of feeling like the company is hiding their phone number.

At the same time, 25% of respondents said they expected an explanation as to why their problem occurred, 24% said they wanted an apology, and 23% said they wanted assurance that the problem would not happen again, according to Customer Outrage. research.

They said their complaints did not frequently get these results: companies provided explanations in 9% of cases surveyed, apologized in 18% and provided assurances in 9%.

Mr. Protzmann said customer service technology such as artificial intelligence is less likely to be able to deliver this craving for empathy than human customers.

“A robot cannot be kind and compassionate,” he said.

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Write to Katie Deighton at [email protected]

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