A few weeks ago, I decided to conduct some independent research. I wanted to know what was really important to us as customers of organisations, and was very excited to produce a blog post revealing the ‘top five’ things we want earlier this month – https://ijgolding.com/2013/11/06/what-do-customers-really-want-the-top-five-most-important-things-revealed/.
The research asked 4 further questions:
- What irritates you most as a customer (based on recent experiences)?
- Which organisations do you, or have you transacted with who deliver excellent customer experiences (in your opinion)?
- Do you ever recommend organisations you have transacted with to friends, family or acquaintances?
- Have you ever used social media (Twitter or Facebook) to interact with an organisation (when requiring customer service or help)?
In this second blog post, I am delighted to reveal the findings to the question ‘what irritates us most’. A question that potentially leads to the ‘opening of floodgates’, I experienced mixed emotions reading the 240 responses. I found myself switching from laughter, to sadness, to anger, to empathy as I immersed myself into the pain and frustration of others – pain that I myself have experienced all too often. So in order to avoid running the risk of irritating you, the reader, by rambling on, let me reveal the results:
You will notice that I have used a scale of ‘irritation’ to depict the most irritating things. The most irritating thing gets 5 irritant symbols, the fifth one gets 1 irritant symbol. They all have one thing in common – they are very irritating to us as customers!!
So what is your initial reaction? The consensus feedback from the first blog post was that the top five were not a surprise. I am guessing that this list will receive a similar reaction. Whether they are a surprise or not, once again it is fantastic to get independent fact based validation of the things that we like least as customers. So let us look into a little more depth at each of the top five.
It is no surprise to me to see ‘poor’ customer service top of the pile. 46% of respondents cited customer service not meeting their expectation as irritating. Comments to bring this to life range from ‘being passed from pillar to post’; to ineffective issue resolution; to ‘unanswered correspondence’; to just plain lack of service altogether. It is clear that if we do not feel that the organisation we are interacting with looks after us from a service perspective, it is significant enough for us to be irritated. Irritated customers are not happy customers. Unhappy customers are not likely to remain customers for long.
What is important about this ‘finding’ is that it confirms and validates why organisations MUST continually invest in improving and evolving customer service – NOT just see service as a cost centre that can continually be squeezed – does that sound like a rant? Maybe it is!!
Pedants may argue that number two in the list of most irritating things is really just another element of customer service. Employee attitude and knowledge – or poor attitude and lack of knowledge is a fundamental part of the service experience, but I have separated it out as so many respondents clearly cited employee behaviour as their major irritation (often as well as the overall service offered). 37% of respondents in fact used words such as rude, ignorant, unprofessional, apathetic, un-knowledgeable, flippant, surly – I could go on. This category of feedback received the most vociferous comments of all.
The way employees behave and act has an enormous effect on our perception of the organisation we interact with. This research clearly shows that the wrong behaviours are evident far too often. I can sum up the responses to employee attitude in a single image:
Third on the list of ‘things we want’ was for organisation to ‘keep their promises’ – so perhaps it is no surprise at all to find ‘not keeping promises’ third in the list of most irritating things according to 30% of respondents. We just want companies to do what they say they will – if you do, you will not irritate us – it is that simple. I often wonder why organisations focus on glitz and glamour – trying to wow us, when they fail to do the most basic things right. How often has a business promised to call you back and then not. How often have you had a commitment for something to be done within a certain timeframe only for that timeframe to be missed. It is not good enough and it irritates us!!!
Making fourth spot is a general lack of customer focus. 18% of respondents are irritated by companies who care more about themselves than the customer. Not valuing customers or relationships; too internally focused; not knowing or caring who I am; were among words used to describe this. What interests me is that companies think we, the customer, do not know that they are only interested in the numbers on their spread sheets rather than the smile on our faces. Profitable organisations are those who focus on meeting and exceeding customer expectation – and consistently do so. I am always reminded by the amazingly appropriate ‘quality vision’ used by GE Capital at the end of the nineties and early noughties:
continuously satisfying customer needs profitably
Never has a mission made more sense to me – I hope they still use it. It is possible to focus on the customer and make money – and lots of it. In fact it is the best and most sustainable way to grow a business. I wish more would try it.
13% of respondents cited poor design as an irritation – concluding our top five. Correlating with number five in the list of things we want, ease of doing business, we are annoyed when the systems, processes and journeys are too complicated, clunky, or just do not work. Poorly designed websites were raised most, especially those with links that do not go anywhere. Additionally, contact processes with unclear direction and hand offs raise many an eyebrow. Basically we crave ease and simplicity. If your systems and processes are neither, you will irritate us – most likely to the point where we will not use them or you again.
Although not making the top five, I thought I would highlight one or two other irritations that I know you will be interested in (although all were cited by less than 10% of respondents):
- Waiting – we do not like it – delays; queuing – very irritating
- Miss selling – up selling, cross selling = no selling!
- Automated phone systems – I can hear the groans from here – despite radical improvements over the years, we still seem to not like them very much!!
So we now know the top five things we want, and the top five things to irritate us. In theory if you are good at doing the things we want, and good at not doing the things that irritate us, you should have an incredibly successful company!! If anyone is willing to do an open and honest self assessment, I would be delighted to share the results with readers of this blog.
Once again, let me thank the lovely people who shared their thoughts to make this research possible. Without them, I would not be able to share this with you. This is also not the end! One more post is to come – sharing the results of the ‘best’ companies to deal with, and answers to the questions regarding use of social media and recommendation.
I hope you are finding this research useful – I certainly am!!
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It doesn’t matter if you’re a B-2-B or B-2-C company, any of these five “irritations” will erode your customers’ confidence and loyalty. Make sure you’re not guilty of committing any of these “offenses.”
Thank you so much for taking the time to read and respond Shep – it is greatly appreciated
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I tell you what makes my teeth itch! It pretty much falls under all the above categories: Automation. I want to talk to a human not Siri. The larger companies become the more impersonal they become. It’s unfortunate. Very informational. Great Job!
Your results are consistent with our findings. I can’t help but think that at the core there is an issue of lack of respect for the customer.
Very good way of describing it Neal – I agree. Many thanks for taking the time to read and comment.