iStock_000028011908XSmallMany of us know from day-to-day experiences that customer service is getting worse, not better.

A recent study from ASU’s W.P. Carey School of Business found that the number of US households that experienced customer rage has grown from 60 percent two years ago to 68 percent today.

Based on a study originally conducted by the White House in 1976, the current research estimates that 58 million American households experienced at least one customer service issue in the past 12 months. Other insights from the study include:

  • We’re yelling at customer-service representatives more frequently – 36 percent now compared to 25 percent in previous rage studies.
  • We’re cursing at reps more frequently – up from 7 percent to 13 percent today.
  • We post customer complaints on social media sites more often, from 19 to 36 percent since 2011.
  • Most of those who complain (56 percent) say they got nothing in return (up 9 percentage points since the 2011 survey).

Yet, some companies choose to WOW their customers, consistently. MSN Money asked Zogby Analytics to help identify USA customer service “Hall of Fame” companies. You’ll not be surprised at the top five service providers: Amazon, Marriott, Hilton, UPS, and FedEx. Amazon, the top scorer, was rated as excellent by over 57% of respondents!

Companies have a huge opportunity to create customer zealots – WOW’ed customers – when they respond quickly and appropriately when things go wrong. The customer rage study found that when companies added free remedies (like an apology) to any monetary relief they gave customers, satisfaction doubled (from 37 to 74 percent).

Here are some ideas that might boost your team or company’s service image in the eyes of customers:

  • Make customer excellence everyone’s responsibility. If you have a customer service “department,” that means a team member doesn’t have to address the complaint. They can shuffle a dissatisfied customer off to someone else!
  • Make customer relationships more important than customer revenues. Positive, caring customer relationships create loyalty, positive word-of-mouth marketing, and consistent customer satisfaction. Which, by the way, boosts revenues and profits, consistently.
  • Let service staff show that they care. Ask them to listen to the customer’s complaint and learn what the customer experienced, without defending. Teach them to say, authentically, “I’m sorry. That shouldn’t have happened.”
  • Allow customer service representatives the latitude to fix the problem, immediately, in the moment. Ritz Carlton Hotels have a policy that lets any employee spend up to $2,000 to resolve a customer complaint without the need for anyone else’s approval. Set a limit of, say, $500 – and allow problems to be addressed promptly.
  • Examine patterns and trends in customer issues. Fix process issues and eliminate stupid policies. Dealing with new service issues is challenging enough; dealing with the same service issues, over and over, is dumb.

Don’t leave customer relationships to chance. Be intentional. Help staff to show genuine LOVE for your customers, even the quirky ones, every day.

What do you think? What great customer relationships does your team or company create daily? What policies or practices get in the way of consistently WOW’ing your customers? Share your thoughts about this post/podcast in the comments section below.

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S. Chris Edmonds

S. Chris Edmonds

Chris helps leaders create purposeful, positive, productive work cultures. He's a speaker, author, and executive consultant. He blogs, podcasts, and video casts. He is the author of The Culture Engine and six other books.
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