Why Customer Service Calls Waste So Much Time

Having to repeat your story over and over again is a top culprit.

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No matter how angry you are, insulting the service rep isn’t going to help your cause

How much time do you think you waste on customer service calls each year? According to a survey of 2,000 adults released this week from customer service software provider Kana, consumers spend an average of 384 minutes – that’s almost six and a half hours – each year dealing with customer service complaints.

One of the biggest culprits for those lost hours is when customers are forced to repeat their story, over and over again, to different customer service representatives. The Kana survey found that during their most recent complaint, 69 percent of customers said they had to repeat themselves multiple times before reaching a resolution. Indeed, reaching a resolution took an average of three tries. Almost two in 10 customers went so far as to call their experience a “customer service death spiral,” requiring at least an hour of repeated explanations.

[See: 10 Ways Companies Annoy Customers.]

“Companies are not set up today for the way that we as customers expect to be able to interact with them and get answers,” says Kana's chief marketing officer James Norwood. Businesses, for example, often have separate entities for talking with customers over social media and the phone. But when customers follow up on a phone complaint with an email, they expect the customer service representative to be familiar with their earlier conversation. That kind of organization shows customers that the company values their time, which customers say is the most important thing a company can do when it comes to providing good service.

Some industries have also been slow to get on social media. “Travel companies and airlines always get the nasty tweets that tend to go viral. We have customers like United Airlines and JetBlue – they’re very belatedly engaging in social and interacting with customers and trying to empathize with their problems and then move them off that channel into a more appropriate one where they can help them,” Norwood says.

When other methods fail, or customers are looking for a quick resolution, the phone is still the preferred method of communication, even though it’s also the costliest for companies. The Kana survey found that phone calls the most popular way of filing a complaint, followed by email. Despite its popularity, Twitter and other social media forms still make up a relatively small portion (7 percent) of customer complaints.

[Read: How to Solve Any Customer Service Challenge.]

The good news is that many companies are ready to change their customer service process to make it more user-friendly, Norwood says. In some ways, they have no choice. “Loyalty today is wafer-thin. Now that the economy is starting to improve, there’s pent-up demand [from companies] wanting to make that change.”

Today’s 20-somethings are also helping to drive that change because they expect so much from companies and are quick to broadcast their complaints online. “Because they’ve grown up where they have no issue with going online to start griping, if they have a bad experience with setting up a bank account, the world’s going to know about it," Norwood says. "This younger generation has no issues about taking to the airwaves to complain because they’ve grown up with new technology."

The Kana survey found that millennials, who are between the ages of 25 and 34, are “the most relentless and driven” when it comes to lodging complaints. In that age group, 80 percent said they had made an official complaint within the last three years. They’re also more likely to reach out to companies across different channels, like social media.

[Read: 10 Companies That Make Customers Happy.]

As companies recognize the importance of solid customer service, Norwood says, they’re investing heavily in it, especially on social media – where millennials, as well as older customers, increasingly go looking for them.