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Customer Problems

Customer Problems Have Hit a Record High – What Do You Do About It?

Uthaman Bakthikrishnan

Uthaman Bakthikrishnan

Executive Vice President

Consumers today prioritize experiences and not products and pricing.

There is a growing discussion that customer experience is the new product and innovation in every industry, as most other things anyway get commoditized.

Given this situation, how do brands stack up against consumer expectations?

Look at the National Consumer Rage survey findings in the US. I am assuming the trend is similar worldwide.

  • 74% of the 1000 consumers surveyed said they had experienced a product or service problem in the past year. That is up from 66% in 2020 and 56% in 2017 when the study was conducted. Only 32% told researchers they had experienced a problem in 1976 when a similar version of the study was conducted.
  • The percentage of consumers who have taken action to settle a score against a company through measures such as pestering or public shaming in person or online tripled to 9% from 3% in 2020.
  • 32% of complainants posted about their most serious problem on social media – more than double the proportion who did so in the 2020 study.
  • 79% of customers complained about their most serious problem to the company at fault, an increase from 72% in 2020.
  • 43% said they raised their voice to the customer service representative to show displeasure about their most serious problem, up from 35% in 2017.
  • Respondents named their top customer care frustrations as “being forced to listen to long messages before you’re permitted to speak to a representative” and “figuring out how or where to contact the company.”
  • 25% of respondents said they expected an explanation of why their problem occurred, 24% said they wanted an apology, and 23% said they wanted an assurance that the problem won’t happen again.

These results echo findings from other similar research published.

Forrester researched the customer perception of 221 organizations and found that the quality of customer service offered by consumer-facing brands and government agencies has declined considerably.

American Customer Satisfaction Index, which analyses customer satisfaction with more than 400 companies in 47 industries on a scale of 0 to 100, fell to 73.1 in 2022 from 77 in 2018, the largest decline in the index’s 28-year history.

2023 Global Digital Shopping Index (GDSI), a PYMNTS and Cybersource collaboration based on surveys of over 13000 consumers and 3000 merchants in six nations, found that the merchants GDSI scores dropped by 4%. Most of the loss was due to customer unhappiness over how merchants addressed their complaints.

Free shipping, free returns, and guaranteed refunds for fraudulent charges correlate to the 4% decline in the GDSI score. A pullback in customer services like guaranteed refunds explains heightened levels of consumer anger with brands over the past year.

While consumers have unique shopping preferences, certainty, ease of use, smooth shopping experiences, and proactive customer service and support have a universal appeal. This is something that every organization should look at providing their customers.

How Do You Go About Ensuring Great Customer Experiences?

Let me give you an example of Chewy, an online pet supply retailer. When something goes wrong, they go out of their way to make it right.

Customer love for Chewy is all over social media.

Here are two tweets from one of their customers.

@Chewy seriously has the best customer support! I just called at 11.30 pm; the phone rang a couple of times, and a rep picked up. She was helpful and knowledgeable. She offered an alternative size for my cat’s out-of-stock litter on our auto-ship and matched the price for me.

Then at the end of the call, she said, “you both stay safe!” and I almost started crying as I replied, “You too!” The world is a mess right now, but little moments with kind humans are meaningful and fill me with gratitude and hope. Thank you, @Chewy.

When you’ve reached the point where your customers are marketing on your behalf, you know you are offering proactive customer support and customer service.

Look at Omnichannel

Provide as many channels as possible which make sense for your customer segmentation. Figure out what they prefer and be available on those channels.

Having them integrated as omnichannel would mean that your customers don’t have to repeat themselves, irrespective of the channels they choose to interact with you. Your reps would have access to all your customer interactions across all your channels.


Every customer loves personalization.

McKinsey reports that 71% of consumers expect personalization, and 76% get frustrated when they don’t find it.

Hubspot reports that personalized call-to-actions convert 202% better than default versions.

91% of consumers are more likely to shop with brands that recognize, remember, and provide them with relevant offers and recommendations – Accenture Research.

Have You Seen Grammarly’s Personalized Reports?

Here is what I received this week.

  • You were more productive than 98% of Grammarly users last week.
  • You were more accurate than 91% of Grammarly users
  • You used more unique words than 97% of Grammarly users
  • The tone detected in your writing – confident, direct, and informative
  • The top mistakes are – missing periods, commas, and commas in a series.

What is the point of this personalized report?

The point is not just to make you look fantastic and identify mistakes but also to show the users how useful the app is for them – positioning it as a vital tool for content creators.

Does this work? I’d say Yes because I have used this for the past 126 weeks.

Listen to Customer Feedback Actively

Most people hate it when they are not listened to. Don’t pretend to listen. Instead, spend time actively listening.

Once you have listened, clarify whether you have understood what your customers are saying. It could be a new need, service, or support issue.

Once you have listened and agreed with what your customer is saying, you can provide them the reassurance they need.

Active listening allows your customers to think highly of you and your organization, enabling you to build customer rapport and lifelong relationships.

Is there any better feeling than being cared for?

At the end of the day, there is no magic pill to engaging your customers – call them, visit them, and talk to them. Ask them what they need, if they need any improvements, and ask for their advice. And do something about it.

Hold the hands of your customers; give them lots of love, and you will see your business grow.

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