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Customer Care Feature Article


March 27, 2006

40% Would Rather Go To The Dentist Than Deal With Bad Customer Service. Really.

By Tracey E. Schelmetic, Editorial Director,
Customer Inter@ction Solutions magazine

RightNow Technologies recently announced the results of its completed customer experience report. The results are yet another confirmation that the general public is proverbially "mad as hell and not going to take it anymore." The study reveals pervasive frustration with an epidemic of poor customer service provided by U.S. organizations. It also underscores the adverse impact these poor customer service experiences have on buyer satisfaction and long-term customer loyalty. (Do you hear this, customer-facing companies? We've been telling you for years, but you're not hearing us, or prefer to tune the information out.)
The research demonstrates that by providing a superior customer experience, organizations can gain a significant business advantage. Positive customer experiences have a major impact on consumer’s organizational perceptions, buying behavior and recommendations to others. However, organizations are challenged to deliver on those objectives without spending significant resources to improve the current environment.  Organizations need to drive breakthrough customer experiences by eliminating the problems that traditionally roadblock success, where costs increase in lockstep with efforts to boost customer experience, while slashing costs means slashing service. 
The research report is based on a survey of 2,048 adults by Harris Interactive.  Respondents were selected to reflect the total U.S. adult population on the basis of region, age within gender, education, household income, race/ethnicity and propensity to be online.
Ninety-six percent of respondents said they had a poor customer service experience within the past year. Eighty percent of respondents said they had stopped doing business with an organization because of a poor service experience. The overwhelming majority of those respondents (79 percent) said such an organization would have to do something significant — such as prove that its service had improved, apologize, or offer a discount — to win back their business. However, fully 20 percent of respondents said they would never go back to such an organization again under any conditions.
Key causes of consumer frustration included automated menus that seem to go in circles, inconsistent or inaccurate information, long hold-times, and repeating account information to service representatives (a perennial complaint that never seems to get addressed, despite technologies that allow call centers to do so).
The report also compared service experiences across industries. Financial services and travel/hospitality organizations scored at the higher end of the scale, while government agencies and telecom organizations fared poorly, a fact that is hardly surprising to anyone who has had to deal with a government agency or a cable company recently.
On a lighter note, the report asked respondents which activities they would rather do than deal with a poor service experience. Fifty-three percent indicated they would rather clean their house, 40 percent indicated they would rather go to the dentist, and 23 percent indicated they would rather walk over hot coals than deal with poor service. (The hot coals and housecleaning I agree with, but 40 percent would rather go to the dentist? That may be carrying it a step too far.)
“This report underscores once again how important it is for organizations to deliver a consistently excellent customer experience across all customer interaction channels,” Greg Gianforte, RightNow’s founder and CEO, said.  “No organization can afford to alienate a single customer even once if it plans on reaping the full long-term potential economic value of all of its hard-won relationships. Customer loyalty and relationships are built one phenomenal experience at a time.”
For more information on the report, visit

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