Surprise! Consumers are even angrier this year (and pay TV is the worst!)

Wikimedia Commons. By José Serrano from Guayaquil, Ecuador
Wikimedia Commons. By José Serrano from Guayaquil, Ecuador

Consumers are more outraged than ever, according to a new survey. And cable or satellite TV is the worst offender!

I love surveys about consumer rage.  Rage is a special kind of reaction, the bastard child of anger and helplessness.  When you have a frustrating situation and there’s nothing you can do about it, you rage.

Nothing makes us rage like a misbehaving company with an endless voice-mail tree and “customer service” agents that act like robots.  As I often say, it costs a company nothing to say “no,” so that’s what they train operators to do.  At least, at first. This is what I call Red Tape.

So it shouldn’t be a surprise that the number of people who suffered rage is up, and more important, the number of people who complained to no avail is also up, reports my friend Herb Weisbaum.

Mistreating customers is folly, of course. I was once told that a certain pay TV company pays $400 to acquire every new customers (think expensive national advertising campaigns).  But of course that same company often refuses to give out $50 refunds to placate an angry consumer.  When will this endless cycle of insanity stop?

1) When marketing dollars are spent on customer service.  No one knows if advertising really works, but we sure know that bad customer service works — for the competitors.

2) When consumers can get some kind of compensation for wasted time. Companies get away with murder (and placing Red Tape in our way) because it costs them nothing. But it can cost you a lot. It can cost you a lunch hour on the phone, for example.  Consumer redress is needed to balance out this cost-shifting, which has really wrecked the normal functioning of the economy.

So says a study released by the W. P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University:

  • The amount of people reporting customer problems went up from 32 percent in the 1976 study, to 45 percent in 2011, and then 50 percent in 2013.
  • The number of households experiencing customer rage went up from 60 percent just two years ago to 68 percent this year.
  • We’re yelling and cursing at customer-service representatives more when dealing with the worst problems, with yelling up from 25 percent in previous rage studies to 36 percent now, and cursing up from 7 to 13 percent.
  • The type of product most often responsible for enraging us is cable/satellite TV.
  • Though many people associate the government with customer-service issues, 98 percent of the most serious problems stemmed from private companies. (That’s why the concept of Red Tape to me is broader than government Red Tape)
  • Despite the rise of the Internet, people are still 11 times more likely to complain via phone than Web.
  • However, customer-complaint posting on social-networking sites, such as Facebook, has nearly doubled from 19 to 35 percent since 2011.
  • Most of those who reported a complaint – 56 percent – say they got absolutely nothing as a result, up 9 percentage points since 2011.
  • When companies added free remedies, such as an apology, to any other monetary relief they gave customers, satisfaction doubled from 37 to 74 percent.
  • If the customer was 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.

What kind of rage have you experienced in the last year?

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About Bob Sullivan 1381 Articles
BOB SULLIVAN is a veteran journalist and the author of four books, including the 2008 New York Times Best-Seller, Gotcha Capitalism, and the 2010 New York Times Best Seller, Stop Getting Ripped Off! His latest, The Plateau Effect, was published in 2013, and as a paperback, called Getting Unstuck in 2014. He has won the Society of Professional Journalists prestigious Public Service award, a Peabody award, and The Consumer Federation of America Betty Furness award, and been given Consumer Action’s Consumer Excellence Award.

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