The Cost of Bad Customer Service

by Jeff Wiener on November 5, 2013

It’s so common that one might say the customer service horror story is almost a rite of passage for the modern North American person, a story of waiting, frustration, and, of course, unresolved complaints. In fact, I would guess that if I asked you the reader to think of the last time you wasted your time dealing with bad customer service your recollection would be immediate, with a multitude of previous similar experiences flooding in as well.

According to an article by Brian O’Connell explaining the findings of a recent study conducted by Populus Research, American adults spend, on average, 384 minutes every year waiting to remedy a customer service complaint, which works out to 6.5 hours, almost an entire work day. It doesn’t take much to extrapolate that further, as over the course of six years a person would lose, on average, an entire work week; almost 40 hours! Now think over the course of 25 years the average adult will have lost an entire month!

Although poor customer service seems to be an inexorable part of our toiling here on Earth, it certainly doesn’t have to be. Simply put, bad customer service is wasting people’s time; heck, it’s wasting their lives, and not only that, but customers won’t stand for it (or at least they shouldn’t).

There is an unfortunate commonality to bad customer service, a phenomenon so widespread that it might lead some to believe that good customer service is hard to achieve, difficult to grasp, or expensive to provide. Of course nothing could be further from the truth. But not only that, the customers themselves seem willing to endure poor customer service, at least to some extent, always wanting to complain but never hitting a company guilty of poor customer service where it hurts: the pocketbook.

Here are a few interesting tidbits from the study:

  • 71% of US consumers have lodged a customer service complaint in the last three years and the time wasted on each complaint was one hour and four minutes.
  • Getting the problem resolved took three attempts and 69% of the customers had to repeat their complaint multiple times.
  • 39% of people use the phone to lodge a complaint.  33% use email.
  • Only 7% turn to social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Yelp to vocalize their complaints.

While it was surprising to see how few customers turn to social media to voice their grievances, the stats themselves should serve as a wake-up call. It’s about time businesses started to think about just how much time their customers spend trying to resolve customer service issues. Time is a valuable resource, and as O’Connell notes, when companies waste a customer’s time so unnecessarily they are demonstrating a “tremendous amount of disrespect.”

Of course as I mentioned, part of the onus here lies with the customer, as people have to stop putting up with bad customer service and start complaining with their “wallets and pocketbooks instead of their telephones and email messages.” It’s only then that companies will really learn the true cost of bad customer service.

That said, the resolution is not that difficult: Resolve Complaints Quickly and with a Positive Attitude! . Monitor your calls and email for trends, survey your customers to make sure service levels are being maintained, and measure your call metrics to ensure your response times are within a reasonable limit. And no, making customers hold for 20 minutes is not reasonable.

Need help designing a proper call center? Call Digitcom at 416.783.7890, press 2 for sales. We answer all calls to service and sales in 5 rings or less. And we measure it!

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