Negative experiences had a bigger impact this year. Results show that 80% of consumers will never go back to an organization after a negative experience, up from 68% in 2006. The upside: service continues to be a huge differentiator. 51% of respondents cited outstanding service as the top reason they continue to do business with a company. Another 60% said it was the top reason they would recommend a company.


To understand consumers, companies must first understand how to connect and communicate with them. 60% of consumers cite speaking with a live agent via the telephone as the number one way they want to interact with a company, while 26% said they prefer email. Also, when online, 68% engage with an organization because they need information on a product, service or company. Interestingly, more than half (51%) of those online want the ability to “chat” live via the Web with a customer service representative.

How Terrible Customer Service Affects Customers

When contacting a company or organization, consumers are most frustrated when they cannot reach a live human being (68%). Also, 56% find waiting on hold, listening to bad music or repetitive messages frustrating. Unanswered emails and phone messages frustrates 33% of consumers. Once
frustrated, consumer’s behavior can become aggressive, and they can even feel sick. For example, after a negative experience with a company or organization:

  • 80% of US adults decided never go back to that company;
  • 74% registered a complaint or told others;
  • 47% swore and/or shouted;
  • 29% have had a headache, felt their chest tighten and/or cried;
  • 13% posted a negative online review or blog entry.

In addition, after a negative customer experience, 34% have fantasized about emailing friends, family or colleagues asking them to boycott the company or organization. 12% have dreamed of picketing and/or defacing a company/organization’s headquarters. 80% of consumers will never go back to a
company after a negative experience 74% of consumers will register a complaint or tell
others of a bad experience, up from 67% in 2006.

29% of US consumers have gotten a headache, felt their chest tighten and/or cried after a negative customer experience. Midwesterners are more likely to swear, feel their chest tighten or get a headache after a bad customer experience.

Westerners are more likely to never return to a company, or post a negative blog entry or online
review after a bad customer experience.

Southerners are more likely to register a complaint or tell others about their bad customer experience and are least likely to swear.

Northeasterners are least likely to register a complaint, tell others or post a blog entry or online review after a bad customer experience.

When a Customer is Happy

Making and keeping customers happy may not be easy, but it is well worth the effort: 51% of US adults cite “outstanding service” as the number one reason why they continue to do business with a company, and an additional 60% said the top reason they would recommend a company is “outstanding service.” Despite what many companies assume, outstanding service is more important than low prices and quality products/services.

What Customers are Seeking

Happy, loyal customers are created one exceptional experience at a time. Keeping these customers also requires outstanding performance in several areas, including:

  • Self-service: Customers want to be able to help themselves quickly and efficiently – 46% of those online find it gratifying to be able to quickly and easily find the information they need online.
  • Call center: Arming call centre agents is more important than ever because 60% of consumers prefer speaking with a live agent. Amazingly, 38% claim they have not had a phone-based customer service experience that exceeded their expectations within the past year.
  • Multi-channel choice: Customers expect choice and convenience, both are prerequisites for a superior customer experience. While most prefer the phone, 25% of consumers online want to engage with a company via email.
  • Feedback: To exceed customer expectations, companies need to know what customer expectations are and take appropriate action. For example, 9% of consumers continue to do business with a company because it cares about customer feedback and takes action to improve
    service based on customer feedback.
  • Responsive: 36% of consumers online said they find it gratifying when email messages are answered quickly.

Bottom Line

Compared with previous research, consumers are even more demanding of excellent customer experiences. In addition to the jump from 68% to 80% of consumers refusing to return to a company or organization after a negative experience, the number of consumers who will register a complaint or tell others of a bad experience jumped from 67% in 2006 to 74% in 2007.

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