How to Get Even for Poor Customer Service

Two-thirds of our economy is in the service sector. So why is service so bad?

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We may be living in a service economy, but you’d never know it by the level of service that customers receive. Service, in a word, sucks. That at any rate is the headline from the latest American Express Global Customer Service Barometer.

Almost incredibly, 93% of Americans say that companies fail to exceed service expectations and 55% say they have walked away from a purchase in the past year because of poor customer service. This suggests that companies are leaving a lot of business on the table when they, say, transfer you to voicemail hell.

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Customers have been so beaten down by their experiences that they do not appear to expect all that much. The average consumer will hang on the line for 13 minutes before slamming down the receiver in disgust and will wait in line at a store for 12 minutes before walking away in a huff, the poll found.

Roughly a third of consumers say they have lost their temper with a service representative in the past 12 months. The main gripes:

  • Getting an unresponsive customer service rep
  • Being shuffled around with no resolution of an issue
  • Waiting too long to have an issue resolved
  • Being forced to make a follow-up call

In today’s wired world, disgruntled customers may have an exponential impact on a business that isn’t getting the job done on the service front. Customers who use Twitter, Facebook or other social media to contact a company are quick to spread word of their discontent. They tell an average of 53 people about a bad experience—more than double the 24-person average. Meanwhile, those who use social media are far more likely to bail on a purchase if they do not like the service: 83% have done so in the past year.

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On the other hand, those who reach out to companies via social media are also more likely to spread a positive word and will spend nearly twice as much if the experience is a good one, the poll found. There just aren’t that many positive experiences to talk about. Some 61% believe that companies are not making an effort to improve their customer service.

The poll suggests that there is a huge opportunity for businesses that can keep from aggravating customers who have a problem or a question. It even sounds kind of easy. Just get a live body on the case in less than 13 minutes.

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