Consumers have had enough, ‘rage survey’ says

Consumers have had enough, ‘rage survey’ says

Americans are not very happy consumers. We’re frustrated and angry—and for good reason.

More people than ever are dissatisfied with the products and services they buy, according to a new report from Arizona State University’s W.P. Carey School of Business. And when there is a problem, we’re less happy with the customer service we receive.

The number of households experiencing “customer rage”—they were very or extremely upset about the company response when they complained—jumped to 68 percent from 60 percent in the last survey, in 2011.

More of us are expressing that rage by yelling and cursing at customer-service representatives than two years ago. Yelling rose to 36 percent from 25 percent of the time, while cursing jumped to 13 percent from 7 percent.

(Read more: How ‘on-call’ hours are hurting part-time workers)

Other key findings from the 2013 Customer Rage Survey:

  • The percentage of people with customer service problems rose to 50 percent from 45 percent.
  • Most of those who complained (56 percent) said they got absolutely nothing as a result, up 9 percentage points.
  • The product most often responsible for enraging us is cable or satellite TV.
  • Though many people associate the government with customer-service issues, 98 percent of the most serious problems stemmed from private companies.

“These numbers have just steadily increased, and it’s disconcerting to see,” said Professor Mary Jo Bitner, executive director of the Center for Services Leadership at Arizona State. “We all know that some companies are doing a good job at this—they provide great products and service—but on average, many are not doing this very well.”

One thousand households were questioned for the Customer Rage Survey during the summer. They shared their customer service horror stories. A few examples:

  • A 35-year old woman from Maryland was upset because she was not allowed to return a bathing suit that she discovered had been previously worn and returned.
  • An 83-year-old man from Utah was told by the repair shop that the manufacturer does not make the products to be fixed, only replaced.
  • A 22-year-old woman from North Carolina said that, in the first year of ownership, she had spent $ 150 to $ 200 for four repairs to an item that cost $ 150.

Everyone in business realizes the importance of good customer service. Solve a problem and you create a loyal customer who will tell 10 to 16 others about your company. Fail to make customers happy and you’ve made enemies who will each tell an average of 28 people about their terrible experience.

(Read more: Who made Consumer Reports’ ‘Naughty & Nice’ list?)

It turns out that bad customer service is worse than no customer service. People who receive poor response become 12 percent less brand loyal than if they didn’t bother to complain at all.

“Given the fact that most complainants are not satisfied, corporate America is spending billions of dollars on customer care programs that are actually losing them customers,” Bitner said.

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