Companies that put callers through phone tree hell are driving customers away in droves, a new survey found. More than eight in 10 consumers (83 percent) say they will avoid a company or stop giving it business after a poor experience with an automated phone system, also known as "interactive voice response" (IVR).
Those aggravated customers are also becoming increasingly vocal, according to a nationwide poll of more than 2,100 consumers commissioned by Interactions Corporation, a supplier of automated voice and other interactive systems. More than 70 percent of consumers will share their negative IVR experience not just with the company itself, but also with friends and family, as well as the world at large, through word of mouth, social media and blogs.
Of all available customer service methods, the most popular method far and away (67 percent) was the customer service representative, the survey found. When a live body wasn't available, consumers' next preference was website-based customer support (23 percent), then live chat with a customer service representative (18 percent). Only 16 percent chose IVR as the preferred option.
And customer service is not getting any better. Almost two-thirds of customers (66 percent) said IVRs and even live representatives have gotten worse or have not improved over the past 10 years.
"Consumers have become unbelievably frustrated with automated phone systems," Mike Iacobucci, CEO of Interactions, said. "Corporations have long believed that consumers will put up with difficult automated phone systems, but that's no longer true. Consumers are abandoning companies that put them into 'voice jail.'"