More customers ready to rebuke companies that miss expectations

The number of consumers engaging in revenge-seeking behavior against companies has more than tripled over the past three years, reflecting dual trends of declining customer experiences and the digitization of complaining.

The finding comes from the National Customer Rage Survey, conducted with 1,000 Americans by Customer Care Measurement & Consulting in collaboration with the W. P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University. The survey has been conducted since 2003. 

Five key findings from the 2023 edition:

1. Seventy-four percent of customers reported experiencing a product or service problem in the past year.

2. "Customer rage" held steady, with 63 percent of customers who experienced a problem reporting feelings of rage about it.

3. The percentage of customers seeking revenge toward a company, such as pestering or public shaming in person or online, over their poor experience tripled since 2020.

4. A quarter of respondents consider hostile behaviors, such as threats, humiliation, foul language and lying, as civil or circumstantially acceptable when protesting against businesses and their values. 

5. Digital channels — e-mail, chat and social media — are now the primary complaint channel at 50 percent, up from 5 percent in 2013. 

"Defusing customer rage is not rocket science," Thomas Hollmann, PhD, executive director of the Center for Services Leadership at ASU's W. P. Carey School of Business, said. "Although many customers are looking for repairs or refunds, they're also hoping for a sincere apology and acknowledgment of their complaints. These no-cost actions show that the company cares, is listening to the customer, and values them."

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