Customer Service Hell

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The modern-day world is seriously lacking in satisfied customers. A new report reveals that 64% of consumers stomped out of a store in the past year because of frustration with the awful customer service, and 67% hung up the phone (and possibly threw it across the room) after a customer service rep failed to resolve a problem. It’s not just a bitch-fest, though: There are also tips for getting what you want (think Twitter). Doesn’t the saying go that “The customer is always right”? Ha! Yeah, right. More often lately, it seems like the customer is always enraged. Almost always, anyway.

A feature in the July issue of Consumer Reports offers a laundry list of what’s wrong with modern-day customer service. Among the findings, which probably aren’t all that surprising to anyone who has dealt with customer service recently:

We’re “Tremendously Annoyed”
*71% of those surveyed said they were “tremendously annoyed” when they couldn’t reach a live customer service rep over the phone

*56% were just as aggravated when they had to place multiple phone calls in order to get the right person (or any person) on the line

We’re Annoyed for Different Reasons
*While women were the most frustrated with the difficulties of getting a live person on the phone, men were “especially annoyed” when a rep—probably right after failing to resolve the problem at hand—tried to sell them unrelated goods or services. Older people (50 and up) are more likely to be driven nuts by the confusing automated phone messages systems, which seem to be designed to do everything except help a caller connect to a live person.

We’re Most Annoyed with Walmart and Sam’s Club
*The two were rated among the worst for customer service in eight different sectors, including electronics and supermarkets.

Tech Support, and Phone/Internet/TV Providers Are Really Annoying
*The survey rated industries as a whole, with brokerage firms, eyeglass sellers, and pharmacies having the overall most satisfied customers. At the opposite end of the spectrum were TV, phone, and Internet providers, and computer tech support services. When analyzing which Internet provider was deemed the best in the survey, CR came to the conclusion: “None stood out.”

These findings just confirm what we already know about customer service, through experience and previous studies. I love this one survey cited by The New Yorker’s James Surowiecki. When it asked big companies whether they delivered “superior” customer service, 80% answered “yes.” On the other hand, customers—who are in the only valid position to evaluate customer service—only identified 8% of these companies as delivering “superior” customer service.

In another survey, this factoid emerged:

*70% of people who had problems with a product or service say they experienced rage

To avoid rage, or perhaps ease it down a notch once the Hulk-like urge to “SMASH!” surfaces, the CR feature offers some advice. First, since so many people are understandably annoyed with the difficulty of getting a live person on the phone, skip through the labyrinth-like automated phone options with the help of GetHuman. The site lists which buttons to press to “get a human” over the phone at hundreds of companies. It also lists average wait times and user ratings for each company’s service.

Next, consider Twitter. CR advises frustrated customers to go public via social media:

Be persistent. Speak loudly and often. Repeat your story on social-network sites if necessary. Companies can hide your comments on Facebook but not on Twitter. If you’re using Twitter, use hashtag keywords like “#Sears” and “#custserve” to make them searchable. Proper “netiquette” suggests good manners no matter how annoyed you are.

Why bother with good manners when dealing with a company that hasn’t been good to you? Because your goal shouldn’t be merely to vent, but to get results. Annoying a company that annoyed you may be exactly what you feel like doing, but it’s probably not going to help your cause. So keep it civil.