Shep Hyken's Customer Service Blog

Respect your Customers' Time: Resolve Customer Service Complaints Quickly

Resolve Customer Service ComplaintsHow Do you Deal with Bad Customer Service

How much time do you spend on the phone dealing with bad customer service?

According to a recent article by Brian O’Connell, writing in The Street, adults in the United States spend, on average, 364 minutes every year on the phone, waiting – and hoping – to fix a complaint.  That’s about six and a half hours.  Let’s put this in perspective.  If you are one of these “average people,” in just a little over six years, you lose an entire work week of productivity; right about 40 hours!  Worse than that, if you start thinking long term, as in about 25 years, you will have lost an entire month.

O’Connell’s information was based on data from Populus Research and Kana Software, who refer to the “complaint wait” as the “hidden price of doing business.”  Some interesting stats and facts came from their study:

  • 71% of US consumers have lodged a customer service complaint in the last three years and the time wasted on each complaint was one hour and four minutes.
  • Getting the problem resolved took three attempts and 69% of the customers had to repeat their complaint multiple times.
  • 39% of people use the phone to lodge a complaint.  33% use email.
  • Only 7% turn to social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Yelp to vocalize their complaints.

That last statistic surprises me a bit.  Based on other surveys, I thought more people had been turning to social media for customer service issues.  7% seems low.  These are the “squeaky wheels that get the oil.” Even if the number is just 7%, these are the customers who broadcast negative publicity about your company to their friends, followers, and in some cases like Yelp, to the general public.  That number is on the rise as consumers become better educated on how to effectively use social media to be heard and get their problems resolved.

For all types of businesses, especial B-2-C, the statistics in this article should be a wake-up call.  I never thought about how much time the average customer spends on the phone dealing with complaints and other customer service issues.  Time is a precious commodity, and if you “steal” it from a customer, you are showing a tremendous amount of disrespect.

When customers realize that a company they do business with is wasting their time by giving poor service, or forcing them to wait on the phone for customer support, they will consider finding another company to do business with who will give better service, quickly fix problems, and as a result, respect the customers’ time.  Smart companies know this.  They also know that is a value proposition that customers are willing to pay more for.  So, here is your simple, common-sense, you-already-know-it-but-are-you-doing-it customer support strategy:

Fix problems quickly!  And, with the right attitude!

Shep Hyken is a customer service expert, professional speaker and New York Times  bestselling business author. For information contact (314)692-2200 or www.hyken.com. For information on The  Customer  Focus™ customer service training programs go tohttp://www.thecustomerfocus.com. Follow on Twitter: @Hyken
(Copyright ©MMXIII, Shep Hyken)

 
  1. Those are some scary stats on customer wait times. I recently published a post on my blog about companies inadvertently pushing customers to use social media. The gist was that poor service in traditional channels (phone, email, in-person, etc.) coupled with good service via social media can cause customers to air their complaints in Twitter, Dacebook, etc. Long wait times is another good reason why more and more people will be taking to social media.

    Here’s a link to my post:
    http://www.toistersolutions.com/blog/2013/7/11/do-your-service-channels-have-multiple-personalities

  2. These are useful guidelines for people who do customer service. I agree with this article. Customers don’t want to wait too long if they’re on hold only to ask a question or fix their concern. Clients call because they have a question or a concern, and they need an answer quickly. We can help them by being knowledgeable on the issue, and transparent to them. Make them feel you are there to help them solve their problem.

  3. I agree with this article which describes disrespecting your customer’s time.
    In the zeal to reduce company expenses and measure ‘service events’, companies have uncoupled solving the customer’s problem with managing pieces and parts of a brittle process. Not included in the measurement is the value of the customer’s time on the phone the first time to lodge a complaint plus any more time to revisit the topic until it gets resolved. I would suggest that any company that decided to ‘put its money where its mouth is’ by paying the customer/giving a discount when a complaint occurs and is resolved with finding of company error would have new customers lining up in droves. When a cable company, an insurance company and a phone company sign onto this business model, I will be first in line. Multiple attempts, initiated by customers, to solve company service problems is abysmal.

    • Hi Carol – Good news is that not all companies are like this. However when you find that cable company you love, let me know and I’ll stand in line with you!

  4. Six and half hours is nothing. I literally spend dozens and dozens of hours talking to customer service of different companies putting out fires, troubleshooting, and fixing problems.

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