As a consumer, when was the last time you walked out of (or disconnected from) a business transaction with a smile on your face because your experience was entirely pleasant and exceeded your expectations? If you had to stop and think hard to answer that question, or if you can’t even remember the last time it happened, you’re not alone.
According to a recent Arizona State University study, customer service is at an all-time low, resulting in ‘customer rage’ being at an all-time high. The following are some of the study’s telling statistics:
- The number of households experiencing consumer difficulties has increased to 66%—up 10 percentage points since 2017 and more than twice as high as it was in 1976.
- The most common problem area was technology (internet, email, software, hardware, tech support).
- Businesses risk $494 billion as a result of serious customer problems.
- Customers make an average of about three contacts to resolve a problem, but for about 10% of respondents, reaching satisfaction took six or more attempts.
Why has poor or mediocre customer service become the norm? Customers have the power to leave scathing social media reviews that reach hundreds of other consumers, so why do so many companies seem indifferent to this fact?
It Saves Them Money
Claiming that bad customer service is a profitable practice for companies may seem counterintuitive, but at a certain level, claims Anthony Dukes from Harvard Business Review, it is. By making their redress systems cumbersome and user-hostile, companies end up paying out less in terms of refunds, etc. American consumers spend an average of 13 hours a year in customer service calling queues, not including the long lines at service counters in brick-and-mortar businesses, and over a third of them have to make two or more calls to finally get their problem(s) resolved (HBR.org). The motive behind this ‘customer care’ madness is to get consumers to decide the hassle isn’t worth it and simply give up seeking reparation. For many, it works, the inconvenience outweighs the value. So, consumers are as much to blame as the companies since consumers are willing to accept poor service.
Customers Have Nowhere Else to Go
This burdensome, for the consumer, approach to customer service might deal a death blow to small businesses that depend heavily on customer reviews to stay afloat, but for larger companies offering essential services, it doesn’t seem to make a difference. Take airlines, for example. Major airlines have a 77% dissatisfaction rating (ASU.edu), but they can afford it because they know their customers will have to come back out of sheer necessity, and there is a relatively low number of competitors from which to choose.
Lack of Training Investment
Franchise executive and Forbes contributor Jeff Bevis says, “I’ve noticed that many businesses are making the same mistakes, over and again. There is a lack of training and little investment in basic customer service skills while setting sky-high sales expectations and measuring employee performance with a maniacal zeal” (Forbes). Some companies don’t seem to understand that the cost of training an employee is less than the cost of losing a customer.
In the next article in this series, we’ll explore what good and bad customer service looks like by comparing real-world examples.