Customer service problems in the U.S. have hit unprecedented levels, and Americans have become increasingly aggressive in their efforts to address those issues, according to new data.
But experts say multiple factors are contributing to the spike in dissatisfaction from consumers and urge frustrated customers to keep that in mind when choosing where and how to direct their complaints.
A recent survey released by Arizona State University’s W.P. Carey School of Business found Americans are experiencing record-high problems with products and services, with 74% of customers reporting issues, up from 66% in 2020 and 56% in 2017.
The report shows customer fury has spiked, too.
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While “customer rage” gauged by the survey remains at a steady 63%, the percentage of people seeking revenge over their poor experience has tripled to 9% from 3% in 2020.
Amas Tenumah, a customer service consultant and the author of “Waiting for Service: An Insider’s Account of Why Customer Service is Broken + Tips To Avoid Bad Service,” says a number of factors are contributing to the decline in customer service in the U.S.
Tenumah told FOX Business that customer service has been deteriorating in the U.S. for decades due to companies’ cost-cutting measures. But the labor shortage brought on by the pandemic has been an accelerating factor in recent years, and the increased use of ineffective automated systems has exacerbated the problems even further.
There is also a major disconnect between what companies see as good customer service and what consumers expect.
Tenumah says 80% of companies think their customer service is going well, while only 8% of customers agree. He points to the fact that chatbots have a 75% failure rate, yet they are the fastest growing channels among businesses.
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He recommends disappointed customers start voting with their wallets to get companies’ attention by refusing to spend money at businesses where they have a bad experience rather than continuing to return to those businesses as many do.
“Think about a Friday night when you go out to eat,” he says. “You will notice that it’s the same national brands that have disappointed you time after time after time.”
Tenumah says consumers are often seduced by fancy marketing of major companies, and resistance to change keeps people from trying smaller, more service-oriented competitors.
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He says the best way to rectify a terrible customer service experience is to complain directly to the top rather than taking it out on front-line workers, who Tenumah says tend to agree with customers but are beholden to company policies.
“If you think that the company you’re doing business with is treating you badly, wait till I tell you about how they treat their service employees,” Tenumah said, adding that service workers in particular are often underpaid and overworked.
He suggests either confronting a company directly — not employees — on its social media pages or writing a letter to the firm’s top executives. When enough messages reach those in charge, he explains, that is when companies are forced to listen.
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While evidence shows customer service has declined, Tenumah also believes civility is at an all-time low and contributing to the problem.
“We are all a little bit more cranky, right?” he said. “There are all of these sociological things going on that make us a little more antsy. … The public is in a state of unease.”