The 2017 National Customer Rage Study:
Why Does The Level Of Customer Service In America Still Get A Failing Grade?
An Independent, Scientific & Longitudinal Pulse Of Satisfaction
With Customer Care In America
Customer Care Measurement & Consulting (CCMC) – in collaboration with the Center for Services Leadership at the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University, Confirmit and Bernett – brings you the release of key findings from the 2017 National Customer Rage Study. The independent 2017 National Customer Rage Study, the eighth study wave since the original conducted by the White House in 1976, offers a clear comparison of customer satisfaction with corporate customer care over the years, and it showed that corporate America is risking a shocking $313 billion in revenue by doing the right things the wrong way.
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Before the 1980s, most American companies viewed customer care as a necessary evil and a significant cost center. Companies all too often approached complaint handling as an adversarial process where they were pitted against “unreasonable” customers and “anti-business” regulatory agencies. Meanwhile, consumer advocacy groups followed a legalistic strategy, concentrating their efforts on the adjudication of individual customer claims and on strengthening the consumer protection regulatory framework.
Two thirds of all respondents experienced customer rage.
The advent of the 1980s, however, witnessed a major reassessment by business of its approach to customer care. During the past 35 plus years, the adversarial and regulatory point of view has largely been replaced by marketplace and profit center considerations. Instead of litigating “who’s right and who’s wrong,” companies now tend to concentrate on “being number one in customer satisfaction.” Instead of hiding from complaints, many businesses now actually solicit them. What was once viewed as a nuisance and cost center is now typically thought of as a powerful retention marketing strategy.
Research initiated by the Nixon administration, and conducted by two of the principals now at CCMC, made a significant contribution to the changes in business practice. During 1974, Special Advisor to President Nixon and Director of the U.S. Office of Consumer Affairs, the late Virginia Knauer, commissioned a study that investigated how companies handled customer complaints. The main focus of the research – the so called 1976 “White House Study” – was a national survey profiling the problems that American households experienced with products and services and examining customer complaining behavior.
35 percent of complainants have yelled and 15 percent cursed when speaking to customer service about their most serious problem.
This seminal work on “Customer Rage” provided a host of provocative and first-ever insights about American customer care and its potential for profit making. The finding from the White House Study that initially caught business’ attention was the existence of a positive relationship between complaining and continued brand loyalty – a relationship that applied even when complaints were not satisfactorily resolved! The greatest marketing payoff, though, was the uplift in brand loyalty between non-complainants and those who were satisfied.
The White House Study further found that satisfying complainants could result in a quite desirable return on investment (ROI). The study also concluded that, whether in growth or mature industries, the cost of keeping existing customers was less than finding new ones. These findings, plus the incremental brand loyalty uplift data, became major justifications for business’ newly found interest in proactively soliciting complaints. This re-evaluation of the worth of complaint-handling practices led corporate America to invest billions of additional dollars in this area. Customer care call centers, satisfaction surveys, employee training programs, and the creation of “customer relations managers” are only a few of the many expanded customer-friendly initiatives adopted by businesses.
The question is did business reap the rich marketing benefits promised by the White House Study as a result of the increased priority given to corporate complaint-handling practices?
The series of eight National Customer Rage surveys – following the 1976 White House Study – provide a basis for understanding the relative impact of corporate investments in customer care over the past nearly four decades. The stories told by the National Customer Rage Study are more than hyperbole about wild, unreasonable customers and unsympathetic, disconnected companies.
The findings provide a startling commentary on the state of customer care in America. While most companies continue to invest significantly in improving their customer care game, the National Customer Rage Survey suggests that many are focusing on the wrong things or poorly executing the right approach to customer care. The consequences of these “good intentions” are wasted resources, lost revenue and a growing flood of negative word of mouth and social media vitriol.