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Customer service complaints hit record highs over daily necessities, ‘rage survey’ finds


Broetzmann said an aggravating factor is the tight labor market, where many employers are still struggling to hire enough experienced and skilled workers.

“Issues create this tidal wave that overwhelms businesses and organizations who then have to try to respond to them effectively,” he said.

About 10.8 million job openings remained unfilled across the country in January, according to federal data released Wednesday, although that figure was down from a record high of more than 12 million last March.

A more regularly published survey of consumer behavior also reveals that customer satisfaction is at its lowest in decades. The U.S. Customer Satisfaction Index, which examines more than 400 companies in 47 industries, stood at 73.4 out of 100 in the final quarter of last year, a level last seen in 2005.

However, this marked a modest 0.3% increase from 2021 after several consecutive years of decline.

“You have a really tough job market [for] companies that rely on the intervention of human services,” said Forrest Morgeson, Emeritus Research Director at ACSI.

Wages rose nationwide as employers scramble for workers amid high inflation, with low-income Americans recording some of the biggest gains. But the median annual income for customer service representatives in the United States was just $36,920 in 2021, the last year covered by federal data, compared to $45,760 for all workers at the time.

As the economy continues to add jobs at a rapid pace, Morgeson said many “frontline service personnel have moved into other roles, leaving them open or with less well-trained people.”

Consumers’ reactions to issues they face are also becoming more aggressive, according to the rage study, with 43% of respondents saying they’ve yelled or raised their voices about their most serious issue, up from 35% in 2015.

Still, Broetzmann said it wasn’t an effective way to get results.

“Follow the model of ‘catch more bees with honey’,” he advised. “If you show a certain degree of kindness, humility and perseverance, this is the best way to get what you want.”

And what customers want goes beyond monetary restitution, according to the survey: 69% of complainants said they wanted customer service interactions “infused with gratitude, compassion and kindness,” not only cash apologies.

Joanna Swanson

Joanna Swanson is Europe correspondent at the Thomson Reuters Foundation based in Brussels covering politics, culture, business, climate change, society, economies and inclusive tech. With specific focus in breaking news, she has covered some of the world's most significant stories.