Service of Expectations

May 31st, 2012

Categories: Customer Care, Customer Service, Expectations

I read about the 2012 American ExpressGlobal Customer Service Barometer” in a research brief from the Center for Media Research. Many of the findings in “Consumers Bail if Service is Bad (…..duh),” weren’t surprising, as the title infers. On reading some of the conclusions, I wondered what part of the world the respondents came from. I’m pretty sure that impatient New Yorkers and anyone with a job must not have been represented in large numbers.

The brief notes that “The survey reveals a sorry state of service in general, pointing that 93% of Americans surveyed say that companies fail to exceed their service expectations, while 55% walked away from an intended purchase in the past year because of a poor customer service experience.”

How my gripes meet the respondents’:

According to the brief, “When asked about the top customer service irritants most likely to lead them to switch brands in 2012, 79% cited one of these ‘Big Four Gripes’:

Rudeness:  An insensitive or unresponsive customer service representative, 33%

Passing the Buck:  Being shuffled around with no resolution of the issue, 26%

The Waiting Game:  Waiting too long to have an issue resolved, 10%

Being Boomeranged:  Forced to continually follow up on an issue, 10%”

I wrote this post in the middle of a to-do with my office phone landline provider. I’d not had service for four days. Apart from the obvious inconvenience, my biggest gripe involved the time it takes to follow-up which I had to do several times a day. There is no direct phone number to repairs as there once was. Customers must press one, press two, and press something else to finally get a person and sometimes, once in the right place, wait on hold for an operator. Once resolved, you hear from many by text, phone and email messages galore.

The first day I expected the repair crew I got in on early and in mid afternoon got a call on my mobile phone to alert me that nobody would be coming because of heavy repair volume. After that, live people left messages on my mobile phone without it ringing so I couldn’t speak with them. Frustrating.

Nobody was rude; there was shuffling around with no resolution and I had to wait far too long. Further, I was given conflicting reasons for the breakdown from crossed wires and installation of new wires to programming issues.  The joke: There is only one other option to handle my landline, so who are we fooling? I can’t switch brands and everybody knows it. I’m at the mercy of the vendor.

My boiling point comes much faster than the survey participants’:

“The average consumer hits his or her boiling point after 13 minutes on hold, creating a golden opportunity for companies to increase customer satisfaction by beating the clock,” according to the brief.  “Similarly, Americans will wait an average of 12 minutes for in-person help at establishments such as banks, retail stores or restaurants.”

Me to survey takers: I wouldn’t wait two minutes, much less 12 to 13, for a retail store or restaurant to pick up the phone. I probably would wait a bit longer for a bank but wouldn’t be happy after four, at most five minutes. Who stays calm after that?

What are your expectations as a customer and what are your limits?

8 Responses to “Service of Expectations”

  1. Dave Crockett Said:

    I think the true issue is that we consumers still think big business (and big labor or big medicine for that matter) in America is there to serve us. That concept went out the window with the election of President Ronald Regan in 1980. Business is there for only one purpose: TO MAKE IT POSSIBLE FOR FAT CATS TO GROW FATTER.

    I expect little or no service from anyone large, and my expectations are usually met.

    If you value service, I recommend you go small, small restaurants, small shops, small contractors, people who need and value your trade. BOYCOTT BIG!

  2. Jeanne Byington Said:


    As I read the end of your comment, for which I thank you, I imagined two tin cans held together by a string for a telephone as the option should I take your advice to boycott big!

    I, too, tend to prefer smaller places–a boutique with a caring proprietor, a restaurant with staff that’s glad to see me–or at least that pretend they are–a doctor’s office where I get to know the receptionist and/or nurse.

    There are some big businesses that try to provide caring service. The Home Depot I visit in Poughkeepsie has a good staff that goes out of its way to share information, get you to the right spot for what you need.

    I resent a business that doesn’t give a whit about my time, my business, my concerns. Nobody gripes if a real emergency causes delay, but building delay into a person’s day by making it difficult to reach a person to learn what’s happening to your business phone line–when there used to be a direct way to get this information–is unforgivable, especially if you pay as much as we do for our phone service.

  3. JBS Said:

    I give up after about five minutes and hang up.

  4. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I happen to know you are not a New Yorker…..and patience-wise, I’m with you!

  5. Lucrezia Said:

    Best policy, and easiest on the emotions, is to have no expectations and no limits. Take for example being put on hold. If at work, it’s a no brainer to put the instrument on speaker phone and go about ones business. At home, same procedure. Patience and courtesy far outweigh anger and threats when it comes to getting positive results. The person one is tempted to vent rage at is not the policy maker who is responsible for ones being put on hold. Conversely the overworked and underpaid rep is the one who will give his all to get a caller what he wants when treated with respect. Believe me, it works.

  6. jeanne Byington Said:


    I don’t take out my frustration on the operator but w/ no office phone, I used someone else’s to check in and was near neither my computer nor my office making it impossible to attend to other things while waiting. And I find that moving from speaker to standard can disconnect me, especially with an unfamiliar phone.

    I feel that as a customer who pays plenty for a service, I should not need to practice patience. The vendor should make me a priority.

  7. Debby Brown Said:

    If you are really P.O.’d and have the time and energy, go on record to report the abuse as Jeanne describes having her business phone down for four days. If you really care, don’t take it lying down. With copies to the CEO of the offending company involved, report your situation to the NY State Power and Light Commission; write to your Senators, call “7 on, (and similar) write the Daily News “Letters to the Editors, ” post the situation on Facebook, etc., etc.

    I am told by friends that many companies (including airlines)mine social media for problems/complaints and act quickly to resolve the problem. Granted, all this takes time and effort but again, if you are so stonewalled in getting service/answers/resolution, etc., this is one route to go!

  8. Jeanne Byington Said:


    You are SO RIGHT with this approach.

    I have had on my “to do” list a letter to the phone company chairman. For one, I also resent the fact that the co., to which I pay $thousands a year ,feels that by compensating me for, according to their calculations, a few bucks for the days I have not had service, they make things right. Extra charges to my mobile phone alone will drown out the paltry compensation the phone company has in mind, not to speak of time wasted not on the job to follow up with them.

    I am embarassed to say that deadlines have gotten in my way, which is just what they count on, and that makes me feel angrier–at me–which is worse than being annoyed at some company.

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