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Bad Customer Service: The Single Most Important Reason Why Customers Leave

Updated on July 10, 2014
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I'm a dad, husband, and Christian first. The rest is just life's add-ons: an educator, administrator, learning & development professional.


Roster of Best and worst companies when it comes to customer service

Did you contribute to the top reason why customers leave? Or are you one of those unfortunate souls that had to contend with repulsive service? Or are you both? Don’t worry nobody’s judging – we all wish!

The truth is the customer-employee relationship is wrought with a plethora of encounters both good and bad. But everyone always hopes for the best. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Recent studies show that customers leave for a myriad of reasons. But the single most important reason why customers leave is poor customer experience.

By now, everybody has been bombarded with words like customer satisfaction, excellent customer service and some other permutation and synonyms. But it all boils down to one thing: Are the customers happy? So ask yourself, when was the last time you were dumbfounded for a service well done? Yes, it’s been a while, I know.

Startling Stats

Harris Interactive said that as much as 86% of customers leave due to pathetic customer service. Of course it was not stated in those words, but it fairly captures the essence. RightNow Technologies puts the number at 73% while the Rockefeller Corporation pegged it at 68%. OK, it’s obvious that the numbers differ and a variance of more than 10 is big. But all these studies point to one important fact: CUSTOMER SERVICE IS IMPORTANT TO RETAIN CLIENTS. As a corollary to this, if clients leave, business fumbles.

With all the hype on customer service one would think companies – big or small, would actually take heed. In 2009 Peppers and Rogers Group said that 81% of companies providing excellent customer service outperformed their competitors. That’s how important customer service is in the industry. However, it’s so sad to even contemplate that a huge chunk of one’s business leave because of how they treat their clients. The impact of this is without question grave!

Apart from the lost business, dissatisfied clients are the most reliable source to dissuade others from patronizing a product or service. I’m not talking about huge groups and non-profit organizations rallying against a product or process. But rather, these are the average consumers on the street willing to spread the word of their disdain. Just to put this in perspective, the White House Consumer Affairs said that 13% of unhappy customers will usually tell 20 other people about their dismal experience. Imagine, 20 more people learning about your customer service fail. That’s bad for business, just wait until it gets online. You’ll surely be in deep sshhhh…shattered trouble.

Breaking it down

RightNow Technologies even went further by breaking down why customers leave. Out of the consumers who packed their bags, 73% stop doing business due to rude staff, 51% due to incompetent staff and 55% said their issues were not resolved in a timely manner. Looking at these statistics, one can’t help notice that the reasons for leaving can be remedied with trainings and some tweaks on the customer service process.

In fact the study also showed that 92% are willing to go back if they simply received an apology from the company, given a discount and if they see improvements in customer service. Come on, consumers are giving companies a chance to redeem themselves! So what do they do? They get automated response systems in the guise of better customer service (and cutting down costs). Here’s the reality of things nobody wants to talk to a pre-recorded response when dong business. USA Today even said that 90% of financial service consumers did not like Interactive Voice Response systems.

Just ask yourself when was the last time you were prompted to press a particular number just to reach a department. After which you press another series of numbers to get to the person you want to talk to. After all the effort you’re put on hold only to get someone else telling you the person is “unavailable at the moment”. Let’s face it the effort is not worth it! It irritates me just writing about it.

Furthermore, Penn-Olsen said that on the average people are put on hold for 57 seconds. Lucky for these people! Some wait for as long as 30 minutes where I come from. Yes, we do wait. What’s incongruent is that companies spend more than 90% of their marketing budget to get people to call but spend only 6% to train their people to handle these calls. People will stay on the line if they hear something relevant to them. 68% of callers will do this! However, 34% of customers who hanged up will NEVER CALL AGAIN. That’s the scary truth of it.

From hated selling strategies to actual pathetic customer service processes, consumers always find faults in the system. More than just a ploy to put down a company, it must be seen as an opportunity to improve. The company may not put customer service as a priority, but you can start building excellent customer relationships yourself. It may go unnoticed in your organization but the rewards will truly be profound.


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    • jpcmc profile image

      JP Carlos 4 years ago from Quezon CIty, Phlippines

      Hello sweetie1,

      Many companies are like that sweetie1. It is sad that customers are not given proper customer service. Infractions can still be reported. I hope there are consumer groups in your country that can help clients.

    • sweetie1 profile image

      sweetie1 4 years ago from India

      In our country, customer relationship is last thing in mind of sellers and they are all like how to rob the customer. Once a thing is sold then they don't care and many a time small traders deliberately pack a defective piece. of course simply because consumer courts takes years to punish them.. Best way is to not visit that shop or store again.

    • jpcmc profile image

      JP Carlos 5 years ago from Quezon CIty, Phlippines

      Hello Dennis,

      Customer service is a big hit when it comes to businesses today. But what is surprising is that many companies continue to give dismal customer service. Thanks for the vote up and share.

    • Dennis AuBuchon profile image

      Dennis AuBuchon 5 years ago

      great hub. This is an important aspect of customer service. I voted up, tweeted and pinned it.

    • jpcmc profile image

      JP Carlos 5 years ago from Quezon CIty, Phlippines

      Hello again H.Agosto,

      Every business must look into their clients stats. From demographics to those who choose the competition. The more you know about your customers the better you can provide service to them. Good luck in this endeavor. it's no easy task, but it has to be done.

    • profile image

      H.Agosto 5 years ago

      Interesting stats. My company needs to look into why our clients leave. We need to stop theit or at least control it.

    • jpcmc profile image

      JP Carlos 5 years ago from Quezon CIty, Phlippines

      Hello Lisas-thoughts101,

      Without excellent customer service clients will find other companies to give them what they want. Unfortunately, many companies fail to see this. During my customer service trainings, I always tell my participants that if they do not provide excellent customer service someone else will. Thanks for dropping by and sharing your insights. I do hope you company realize your efforts and make the needed changes. A pay raise or promotion would be nice. :)

    • Lisas-thoughts101 profile image

      Lisas-thoughts101 5 years ago from Northeast Texas

      I work for a company that does not value good customer service. I still do my best to provide great service and you can just tell how much the customers appreciate it. It completely changes their attitudes. The company has shrunk rather than grown, however. I believe that is directly related to the lack of good cs.


    • jpcmc profile image

      JP Carlos 5 years ago from Quezon CIty, Phlippines

      Greeting customers is a key factor in keeping clients. A mere good morning can change the buying mood of a client. There are numerous strategies on how to greet properly but it boils down to one thing - greet them properly and promptly.

    • ThriftyBoomer profile image

      ThriftyBoomer 5 years ago

      Great hub. Customers should be greeted within 30 seconds of entering the store or a department within the store. Even if the salesperson is busy, simply acknowledging the customer's presence is more likely to encourage her to wait for you.

    • the girls profile image

      the girls 5 years ago from Los Angeles, California

      As the saying goes, it takes many hours to win a single customer and it will only take you a second to lose one. The business thrives because of profits you derive from your customers. Nice work and hubs kabayan. Voted up!

    • jpcmc profile image

      JP Carlos 6 years ago from Quezon CIty, Phlippines

      Hi Arthur, good to see you here. Thanks for the compliment

      Hello vocalcoach, Many companies fall short in terms of providing excellent client experience. Smiling at customers isn't enough to be called customer service. :) Thanks for the rate up.

    • vocalcoach profile image

      Audrey Hunt 6 years ago from Nashville Tn.

      This is good! Customer service is #1 as far as I'm concerned. It seems like this is not a priority with most businesses anymore and that is really sad. Rated up!

    • profile image

      Arthur King 6 years ago

      Great stats. You've got numbers to back your points.

    • jpcmc profile image

      JP Carlos 6 years ago from Quezon CIty, Phlippines

      I understand what you mean annaw, Consumers pay and we want to get what is rightfully ours. Moreover, why spend on something that is not worth your time, money and effort? Companies should realize this. Here's a rule I share in my seminars: If you don't provide excellent customer service someone else will. Thanks for reading the hub and for your comment.

    • annaw profile image

      annaw 6 years ago from North Texas

      Keeping customers is about building relationships with them. I do not hestitate to take my dollars elswhere when I am not getting the type customer service/care I deserve. Companies and their managers need to realize they do not hold all the cards, and there are others out there who do have it right and will give me what I need. Great Hub