The Gist

  • Rage triggers. The National Rage Study reveals the main causes of customer rage include being forced to listen to long messages and difficulty in reaching a human representative.
  • Disappointing outcomes. Despite 80% of consumers attempting to complain, only 30% achieved a satisfactory resolution, highlighting the need for businesses to improve their complaint handling processes.
  • Education balance. While customer education is essential, companies must avoid overloading customers with information during greetings and provide targeted, relevant education after addressing their primary concerns.

I recently called my drug store to refill a prescription. The interactive voice response (IVR) system told me what to do if I was a health professional, how to get various vaccines, where to order COVID tests as well as the availability of education on several topics. It then asked what I wanted to do. This is a perfect example of what consumers are complaining about in the newly published Customer Care Management & Consulting (CCMC) National Rage Study, which was featured in the The Wall Street Journal and on the CBS Evening News

Related Article: Reduce Customer Rage: Top Tips for Contact Center Success

Biggest Cause of Customer Rage

Companies think, “I’ve got a captive audience for the next minute, let’s do a bunch of education, contact prevention and marketing.” The single largest cause of customer rage is “being forced to listen to long messages while trying to get to a human.” The second is trying to figure out how to get to a human. This rage results in high disloyalty and posts on social media by a third of consumers. A further result of these sins was that 43% of consumers said they had raised their voice to a service person and over a quarter felt cursing was OK, at least in some circumstances. This also tracks with our finding at Toyota that longer holds and irritation result in longer talk time because the customer spends time complaining about getting to the customer service representative (CSR).

The National Rage Study, which is the twelfth wave of a study originally executed for the White House Office of Consumer Affairs in the 1980s, found that more households than ever (74%) have had serious consumer problems in the last year, 8% higher than found in the previous 2020 study. The primary offending industries are the computer, auto and financial services industries while cable/satellite TV has dropped out of the top three — 80% of consumers did try to complain but only 30% had a satisfactory outcome. The 20% of non-complainants felt that nothing would be done and complaining would do no good.

Related Article: Combining Self-Service, Chat and Phone Support: A Winning Strategy for Customer Service

Education Is Noble, But Answer Questions First

While trying to market to someone calling with a service need is a really bad idea, education is a noble cause — just not before you’ve answered the person’s original question. Also, if you are going to have an educational message in your greeting (maximum of one!), allow the caller to barge in. Keep all greetings under 20 seconds, ideally 15, and again, always allow barge-in.

I am all for customer education. Education and proper expectation setting can reduce problems and raise satisfaction by as much as 40%. See the following chart based on a satellite internet provider’s education of customers at the time of onboarding.

Learning Opportunities

CCMC Chart

Successful Education Reduced Problems and Questions by 40%

You see that performance and satisfaction are 40% higher when customers are effectively educated. Do provide customer education, just not at the beginning of your greeting. 

Also, make sure that the education is appropriate. I had a major East Coast medical organization interrupt my hold message with four different messages imploring me to learn and use their electronic charting system. I was already using the charting system so the messaging was especially irritating. As I had already authenticated, their system knew I was using the system and could have had a separate set of advanced messaging — except that marketing was too lazy to go to the extra effort. One size does NOT fit all in most cases.

Actions to avoid customer rage and battered CSRs:

  1. Keep greetings to 20 seconds.
  2. Do education, just not during the greeting — do it upon onboarding or after solving the problem.
  3. Do not hide the 800 number — the loyalty revenue damage you cause more than offsets the handling cost you save.

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