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‘National Customer Rage Survey’ points to troubling trend among US consumers

By Michael Bartiromo,

2023-03-14

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(NEXSTAR) – The results of a small nationwide survey suggest that consumers are becoming increasingly infuriated by the perceived level of assistance from customer service departments, and some of us aren’t above seeking “revenge.”

The 2022 edition of the National Customer Rage Survey, conducted by Customer Care Measurement & Consulting, shows evidence that more Americans are not only having problems with various products and services, but also that our “rage” toward the companies providing these goods or services is growing.

We’re also becoming more belligerent with customer service reps, and about 1 in 10 of us are interested in seeking “revenge” in the form of badgering, belittling, or threatening an employee, according to some of the responses to the survey.

“I don’t want to sound too ‘Pollyanna,’ but it’s kind of horrifying,” Scott M. Broetzmann, the President and CEO of Customer Care Measurement & Consulting, told Nexstar of the report’s recent findings.

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Of the 1,000 respondents polled, 74% claimed to have had an issue with a product or service in 2022, up from 66% in 2020 (during the last edition of the survey). Of those, 63% said they felt some sort of “customer rage” during attempts to resolve the issue — which is the same “rage” percentage observed in the 2020 edition , albeit one that now represents a larger number of infuriated consumers.

We’re also yelling at and/or raising our voices during 43% of our interactions with customer service, the survey suggests.

Perhaps even more troubling, 17% of consumers surveyed admitted to behaving “uncivilly” toward a company — and not because of an issue with its products or services, but due to a perceived difference of values or beliefs, such as religion, politics, gender issues or vaccination and mask mandates.

Seventeen percent might even be a conservative estimate. As noted in the full “rage” report, many consumers can’t seem to agree on what counts as “uncivil” behavior. Half of the respondents felt that yelling, arguing, and “social media assassination” were uncivil ways to deal with consumer issues, but the other half thought those was totally fine, or appropriate depending on the specific scenario. And, a quarter of the people surveyed didn’t think that “threats, humiliation, foul language, and lying” were uncivil at all.

There appeared to be a rise in consumers lashing out in public, too, especially during the earlier stages of the pandemic — a troubling trend that Broetzmann worries may continue.

“What constitutes reasonable behavior in the public square is being redefined. And it’s kind of scary,” he said.

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Part of the reason for some customer dissatisfaction, Broetzmann feels, is that companies are having to deal with complaints from an ever-growing population — and likely an ever-growing customer base — and they may not have the resources or money to provide the same level of customer service that Americans may have been used to in previous decades.

In 1976, for example, a government survey found that only 32% of consumers had issues with a purchase or service during the previous year. The U.S. population has since grown by over a hundred million people, and now we have more sophisticated (and somewhat more complicated) appliances, cars, computers and apps.

Companies attempt to deal with growing dissatisfaction in a number of ways, like outsourcing their customer service department, setting up overseas call centers, or even investing in robotic or automated systems. Larger businesses, Broetzmann said, will often utilize a few different methods, sometimes even segmenting the departments that handle certain calls or complaints. But this particular tactic, he said, could create even further dissatisfaction, especially if representatives ignore the complaint and “pass the buck” to other departments.

“What it’s creating is even more of a rift, is what the data would suggest, between companies and their customers,” Broetzmann said, likening the issue to a famous line from a 1967 Paul Newman flick.

“’What we have here is a failure to communicate,’” Broetzmann said, paraphrasing a quote from “Cool Hand Luke.” “And it’s started to get even more complicated than it had been.”

Copyright 2023 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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