Almost Half of Consumers Feel Customer Service Has Worsened Over Past 3 Years

Cavell's Voice of the Consumer Report 2024 highlighted some eye-catching trends, including that 44% of consumers believe customer service has gotten worse over the past three years

Almost Half of Consumers Feel Customer Service Has Worsened Over Past 3 Years
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Published: April 19, 2024

Kieran Devlin

Kieran Devlin

According to new research from Cavell, almost half of consumers (44 percent) believe that customer service has gotten worse over the past three years.

Cavell’s Voice of the Consumer Report 2024 illustrates several other eye-catching trends, including that one-third of customer service interactions were considered unsatisfactory in the last year and that over one-third of consumers want AI and automation to reduce wait times.

Of those respondents who said customer service had gotten worse were a combination of those who reported feeling “much worse” (16 percent) and those who indicated feeling “worse” (28 percent). When analysing the age demographics of the respondents, Cavell discovered that individuals from older generations were more inclined to perceive a decline in customer service compared to three years prior.

Cavell’s Report assessed the finding:

It is most likely that consumers are now contacting businesses looking to resolve increasingly complex issues across increasingly complex products and services. This complexity makes acceptable resolution more difficult for customer service providers to achieve. Therefore, consumers feel that they are seeing an overall deterioration.”

Cavell expanded, suggesting that catering to a broader range of communication channels may have affected customer service providers and increased issue complexity. Historically, providers dealt with in-person, mail, and voice channels exclusively. Consumers expect them to handle issues across multiple channels, including social media. This transition may have posed challenges for providers, contributing to the decline in consumer perception.

Cavell’s Voice of the Consumer Report surveyed over 1000 UK adults and followed all guidelines for impartiality and anonymous responses to preserve a diverse and fair sample.

Other Key Findings

One alarming statistic from Cavell’s Report is that almost half of the respondents said they had ignored an issue with a product or a service because they wanted to avoid a customer service interaction, illustrating a breakdown in trust between customers and customer service providers.

Cavell proposes potential explanations for this figure, such as companies intentionally complicating customer service pathways and introducing deliberate friction, which could deter customers from contacting them. However, it cautions that the severity of these issues remains uncertain since the survey did not specify their seriousness. Some respondents might disregard minor issues, deeming them not worth the effort to resolve.

Another key finding was around the survey question: “In the last year, how many of your customer service interactions were you satisfied with? (Satisfied defined as having been provided a good service, regardless of whether your desired outcome was achieved?”

Cavell reported a 62 percent interaction satisfaction rate, with almost two-thirds of consumers satisfied with over half of their interactions in 2023.

“This question sees the majority of those that interact with customer service do have a satisfactory interaction,” the Report wrote. “Also, the data does show that although there is a decreasing perception of customer service effectiveness, the majority of respondents were still satisfied with most of their own interactions. However, if you think about company metrics for successful customer service, a 64 percent satisfaction rate would likely be considered a failure.”

Satisfaction levels varied by age, with 16-24-year-olds at 59 percent and those aged 55+ at 70 percent. The least satisfied were 25-34-year-olds at 56 percent. Additionally, Cavell noted that the more people interacted with customer service in the last year, the lower their satisfaction level. Those who contacted customer service just once had the highest satisfaction at 73 percent. However, for those with 11-20 interactions, satisfaction plummeted to only 48 percent.

Lastly, Cavell reported that one-third of consumers would pay for a “premium” service add-on if it included features such as prioritised response, personalised service and dedicated contact points.

By omitting specific pricing details, Cavell’s respondents could consider this a potential option. However, for the majority interested, the price would likely be a determining factor, with 28 percent saying they would pay for such a service if it were worthwhile, while only six percent said they’d pay regardless of cost.

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