New Research Reveals Why Customers Hate Call Centers


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Nobody likes calling customer service.

The list of gripes is a mile long: confusing phone menus, intolerable hold times, and a lack of agent empowerment all annoy us.

New research from Mattersight reveals a few specific reasons why customers are dissatisfied. What’s surprising is it’s not a poor product, service, or policy that’s at the heart of the problem. It turns out the heart itself is feeling ignored.

Finding #1: Customers don’t want to call

It’s easy to get confused by channel preference data.

Microsoft’s 2015 U.S. State of Multichannel Customer Service report revealed that the phone is still the most popular channel. Their survey shows that 81 percent of customers use the telephone to contact customer service on a regular basis.

At first glance, it seems like customers actually do want to call you. Otherwise, another channel would be more popular, right? Here’s where Mattersight’s data provides some additional perspective: 

Only 28% of customers call customer service as their first attempt to solve a problem.

This means that most customers who call start somewhere else. Microsoft’s study found that 57 percent of customers start online, but customers might also try another channel like email, chat, or social media. They end up calling when they can’t solve their problem on the first try.

Smart companies work to prevent calls by providing better service through other channels, particularly self-service. This keeps their customers happy and allows them to serve customers more efficiently.

Finding #2: Customers are already upset

Calling customer service can feel like navigating an obstacle course. Think about all a customer has to go through just to get someone on the phone:

  1. They experienced a problem.
  2. They couldn’t resolve it without calling.
  3. They had to navigate through an annoying IVR system.
  4. They had to wait on hold.

Mattersight’s study revealed this is a major problem:

66% of customers are frustrated before they even start talking with a customer service representative.

This frustration makes the customer service agent’s job a lot harder in several ways:

Smart companies realize the best strategy for working with upset customers is to have fewer upset customers. They work on identifying and fixing root causes rather than deploying their customer service agents as human punching bags.

Finding #3: Customers aren’t happy after the call

Call center agents routinely overlook their customers’ emotional needs. Here’s another stat from Mattersight that sums it up:

75% of customers have felt frustrated after talking with a customer service representative, even if their problem was solved.

Serving emotional needs is the real secret sauce in customer service. Unfortunately, we tend to focus so much on solving the problem that we miss out on helping the customer feel better.

A 2011 study from Bain highlights a terrific example. They looked at Net Promoter Scores for airline passengers who experienced a flight delay or cancellation. The data revealed that the way the issue was handled had a much heavier influence on their rating than the event itself.


All of these findings revolve around attending to your customers’ emotional needs. Here’s a short video that gives you a glimpse into that way that tending to emotional needs can make a difference.

So, what can you do to make calling your company a better experience for your customers? Here are three suggestions:

First, give customers fewer reasons to call. Relentlessly search for icebergs and fix those problems. Improve the quality of your self-service options so customers can solve issues on their own.

Second, make it easier for customers to call. Remove or reduce barriers like clunky phone menus and long hold times. Consider adding a callback feature like Fonolo if you routinely have large spikes in call volume.

Third, train your agents to serve their customers’ emotional needs. You can use the Working With Upset Customers training video on You’ll need a subscription to view the entire course, but you can pick up a 10-day trial here.

Republished with author's permission from original post.


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