Customer Experience News & Trends

Top 6 things ticking customers off now

Customers are tired of poor service. But they aren’t as frustrated as they were four years ago. Does it mean the experience is getting better?

That’s quite possible, according to the latest research from Consumer Reports.

Fewer customers were upset over poor service — regardless of if it was on the phone, in an email or in-person — this year than were in 2011, when the Consumer Reports National Research Center last surveyed them.

Top irritants

Two important factors in the customer experience apparently got much better: Fewer customers complained about dealing with rude sales and service professionals, and fewer complained about waiting to get a person on the phone.

Specifically, here’s what irritates customers most and the percentage of customers who said they were annoyed by the situation at least once in the last year:

  • Can’t get a person on the phone (75%)
  • Employee is rude or condescending (75%)
  • Disconnected (74%)
  • Disconnected and unable to reach same person again (71%)
  • Transferred to someone who can’t help (70%), and
  • Company hides or doesn’t provide a customer service number (68%).

Despite decreased frustration, companies still lose business over sub-par customer experiences. Half the people in the survey said they’ve left a store without making an intended purchase because the service was poor. Nearly 60% of customers said they’ve just hung up the phone — rather than see their issue to the end — because they were disappointed in the help they were getting.

Taking an honest look

Customers expect it to be easier to reach help and get accurate answers. The first step to meeting those expectations is taking an honest look at the level of service they currently provide.

For instance, Consumer Reports, took what they found to heart. It looked at a year’s worth of its subscribers’ feedback and found it failed customers in some areas, such as:

  • Extended phone waits
  • Failure to respond to email
  • A difficult-to-find phone number, and
  • Recorded messages that said they were busy, followed by an automatic disconnect.

“We are aware of our customers’ pain points and are committed to creating an excellent experience,” said Carolyn Clifford-Ferrara, Consumer Reports’ vice president of operations.

So Consumer Reports took steps to improve phone wait times, and now the majority are under 30 seconds. Most emails get a response within 24 hours, Clifford-Ferrara said. It also added the customer care phone number to its website and print magazine.

Where do you stand?

Even if your customers tell you in surveys they’re satisfied or highly satisfied, you want to take a closer look at where you stand. The Consumer Reports research shows customers are more frustrated than they usually admit to individual companies.

Try these tips to put your usual surveying results in full context:

  • Look at what customers do, not just at what they think. Customers may say they’ve had good experiences, but if they aren’t increasing the amount or frequency of sales, they probably aren’t as satisfied as you’d like to think. Compare survey results to buying patterns.
  • Mystery shop. There are lots of third-party mystery shoppers you can work with to assess your service. But you can also take a grass roots approach: Get family and friends (and friends of theirs) to test all your customer service channels. Give them an objective to reach or questions to ask, and have them rate their experiences.
  • Benchmark. You can also find plenty of organizations that can help you benchmark your operations to others in your industry. Or you can start Googling top customer service providers, in your industry, service levels, leaders in customer service, etc.

Note: You can see Consumer Report’s entire list of customer irritants here.

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