New Survey: Bad Customer Service Impairs Our Quality of Life

A new poll found that citizens of the United Kingdom spend three-and-a-half years of their lives being angry. The average Brit reported spending one hour and nineteen minutes a day in a foul mood and the number one cause cited for their ill-tempers was—bad customer service! Two thousand subjects completed the survey in which they estimated how often they find themselves in a bad mood and what they thought was the cause of their anger. Not only was bad customer service the prime suspect for Brit’s dark clouds (rather surprisingly, actual dark clouds were not mentioned as a cause of bad mood) the runner up culprit was also customer service related—automated phone systems.

Although work problems, money worries and family issues were also mentioned in the survey, they failed to make the top ten. Apparently, such troubles pale in comparison with the fury Brits feel toward top ten societal horrors such as Dog Mess and Public Displays of Affection.

But do annoyances such as poor customer service and automated menus impact our quality of life for the worse in the USA as much as they do in the UK? Or do the British findings constitute…much a-poo about nothing?

In Chapter 7 of The Squeaky Wheel I describe how Samuel, a senior financial executive, spent an entire therapy session describing the ‘preparations’ he went through to place a simple call to his bank to dispute interest fees. In addition to the therapy hour, Samuel spent numerous hours dreading the call, a good hour preparing for it (dressing in his best suit, warming up his voice, stretching, cracking his knuckles and making sure his wife and kids were out of earshot) and over an hour on the call itself.

If we actually added up how much time in a given week we spend irritated about poor customer service in stores or restaurants or how much angst we generate about calling hotlines and dealing with endless automated menus, we would be stunned by the results.

Bad customer service is a daily fact of modern life. We interact with service providers and customer service professionals every day and in almost everything we do. To assume poor customer service can have the cumulative effect of negatively impacting years or even months of our lives seems entirely plausible.

But if so, what are we to do?

Should we simply accept that significant chunks of our existence are to be dominated by minor annoyances and irritations? Should we sit by and passively wait for the day when corporations, companies, businesses and government rid us of such irritations by drastically improving their customer service practices?

What we can and should do, is take action. As consumers and citizens, we can take it upon ourselves to learn how to complain effectively; to make wise choices about which complaints to pursue and which to let slide, to acquire the skills and tools that will get us results and turn our complaints into agents of change. Since decision makers in companies are exposed to similar customer service frustrations in their lives (they too encounter bad service in restaurants or rude sales associates in stores), they should work from within their companies to prioritize customer service excellence and a customer-centric corporate culture.

Please forgive me the following shameful plug, but if spending a few hours reading The Squeaky Wheel can save us days, weeks and maybe even months of anger and ill-temper over our life-spans, surely it is an investment worth making (end of shameful plug).

With all the anger-free time you’ll be adding to your life you might feel giddy enough to put on a public display of affection of your own. Just remember to watch your step.

Copyright 2011 Guy Winch

Follow me on Twitter @GuyWinch