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Customer Satisfaction Still at 1970's Levels

Customer Satisfaction Still at 1970's Levels
Businesses haven't figured out how to improve customer service in the last 40 years. / Credit: Vintage phone image via Shutterstock

Consumers are no more satisfied with the customer service they receive when complaining about a product or service today than they were nearly 40 years ago, new research shows.

A study from Arizona State University and Customer Care Measurement and Consulting discovered that despite companies' big-money efforts to create customer-care programs, consumer satisfaction derived from such programs is no higher than it was in 1976.

"People are frustrated that there are too many automated response menus, there aren't enough customer-care agents, they waste a lot of time dealing with the problem, and they have to contact the company an average of four times to get resolution," said Scott Broetzmann, president and CEO of Customer Care Measurement and Consulting.

The research revealed that the negatives from bad customer service far outweigh the positives when consumers are satisfied with the response they get from complaining. Specifically, when a customer is satisfied, or at least pacified, he or she only told an average of 10 to 16 people about the problem. But if customers were left dissatisfied, they told an average of about 28 people.

Mary Jo Bitner, executive director of the Center for Services Leadership at the W. P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University said the moral of the story is that businesses shouldn't invest in improving their customer service, unless they're going to do it right.

"If a company handles your complaint well, then you typically become a more loyal customer," Bitner said. "However, if they don't, then you become 12 percentage points less brand loyal than if you never complained at all."

Overall, the percentage of consumers complaining about products and services rose from 32 percent in 1976 to 50 percent this year. Of those, more than half say they got absolutely nothing as a result of their complaints, up 9 percentage points in just the last two years.

While the study shows that customer-complaint posting on social-networking sites, such as Facebook, has nearly doubled since 2011, people are still 11 times more likely to complain via phone than the Web.

The research revealed a simple "I'm sorry" will often make complaining consumers happy. When companies added free remedies, such as an apology, to any monetary relief they gave customers, satisfaction doubled from 37 percent to 74 percent.

The study was based on surveys of about 1,000 households.

Originally published on BusinessNewsDaily.

Chad Brooks

Chad Brooks is a Chicago-based writer and editor with nearly 20 years in media. A 1998 journalism graduate of Indiana University, Chad began his career with Business News Daily in 2011 as a freelance writer. In 2014, he joined the staff full time as a senior writer. Before Business News Daily, Chad spent nearly a decade as a staff reporter for the Daily Herald in suburban Chicago, covering a wide array of topics including local and state government, crime, the legal system and education. Chad has also worked on the other side of the media industry, promoting small businesses throughout the United States for two years in a public relations role. His first book, How to Start a Home-Based App Development Business, was published in 2014. He lives with his wife and daughter in the Chicago suburbs.