Email Pique: It's A Customer Service Issue, But Far From The Top One

Email doesn’t rank high as a customer service issue — it’s No. 12 on a long list of complaints. But consumers resent it when a company “uses your address or email address to bombard you with advertisements,” according to a new study by Corra. 

This gripe drew an average of 3.07 on Corra’s complaint scale of 1 to 5. It was far outranked by the top grievance -- “When a problem is faulty” (3.87) -- and the second, “When a company charges you a hidden fee” (3.84).   

But email saturation still gets worse marks than bad service in stores and on airlines. And men say it’s the situation they’re second most likely to complain about, after an airline losing their luggage.

What are the possible consequences if someone complains publicly? Among 2,000 consumers surveyed by Corra, almost 88% said they have avoided a company because of a bad review in social media. 

The good news for emailers is that there are far more egregious customer service lapses. And in a breakdown of types of complaints by age and gender, email does not come up once among women. Females are most likely to complain when a product is faulty, or when there are hidden fees.  

Overall, the most prevalent consumer complaints are about service issues (52%), product issues (31.4%) and policy issues (16.6%).

Almost 90% of the respondents will give a company two chances before giving up on them. Men in their 40s are the most forgiving, while women in their 60s are the least. Women will hold a grudge, and they write reviews, Corra states.

There’s no big shock about the companies with the worst customer service reputations. Cable firms top the list among both men and women, and cell phone providers are next, followed by airlines. (It’s not known whether this survey was conducted before the recent episode of a passenger being dragged off a flight).

Next on the list are restaurants, then retail stores. Banks are trailed by online stores. 

Why do customers leave negative reviews? We’d guess that revenge is a factor, but no: They mostly do it to save others from having the same experience, Corra reports. Smaller percentages want refunds, apologies and changes in policy.

Corra offers many suggestions on how to avoid trouble. For example, make sure customers feel “heard and valued” when they call customer service. Your response times should be quick, and your ecommerce site must allow users to submit requests and feedback, with your return policies clearly stated.

Your privacy policy should also be clearly stated, and that, as per the law, consumers can easily opt out of getting your email communications or anyone else’s. And remember: Permission to email does not mean blanket permission to do anything. 

Here’s the ranking of the most prevalent issues: 

  1. When a product is faulty — 3.87
  2. When a company charges you a hidden fee — 3.84
  3. When a customer service rep is rude or dismissive — 3.79
  4. When a product is not as described — 3.70
  5. When airlines lose my luggage — 3.61
  6. When clothing you ordered is made of poor material or damaged — 3.47
  7. When you attempt to return a product and the store won’t accept the return — 3.43
  8. When the service is bad at a hospitality business (such as a hotel, cruise line, theme park, etc.) — 3.32
  9. When the service is bad at a restaurant — 3.29
  10. When the service is bad at an online retailer — 3.28
  11. When the food is bad at a restaurant — 3.13
  12. When a company uses your address or email address to bombard you with advertisements — 3.07
  13. When the service is bad at the store — 2.99
  14. When the service is bad on an airline — 2.92
  15. When a product color is not the same as the photo online — 2.87
  16. When a service provider is running late and delays your appointment — 2.70
  17. When clothing you ordered isn’t true to size — 2.64%
  18. When a product arrives late — 2.64
  19. When a product is overpriced for the quality — 2.51
  20. When you disagree with a company policy — 2.40
  21. When service is slow at an airline check-in counter — 2.13
  22. When an airline sets you next to noisy passengers — 1.99
  23. When a retailer never seems to have your size or style in stock — 1.90
  24. When you can’t find what you want on a retailer’s Web site — 1.71
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