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Top Customer Complaints: Business and Product Shortcomings May Be Costing in the Call Center

Consumers are demanding better service more now than ever before and they're not shy about voicing their displeasure after getting bad service," says Angie’s List founder Angie Hicks. See what industries are racking up the complaints and why — and how this may be costing companies in contact center dollars.

With an average cost per call around $4, organizations are wise to deflect live-agent customer contacts whenever possible. Web self-service? IVR? Sure, that’s helping, but it’s hard to handle complaints without a live agent – and that costs the company. Here, we look at some top customer complaints from 2011 from Angie's List, which collects consumer reviews on local contractors and doctors in more than 550 service categories. Banks, Home Warranties and Telecomm make the list of high consumer complaints, and it’s costing companies in call center dollars (and more).

For the seventh consecutive year, home warranty companies topped the worst-graded categories list compiled by Angie’s List, the nation's leading provider of consumer reviews on local contractors and service companies.

Other repeat offenders on this year's most complained-about list are Internet service providers and mobile and landline phone service providers.

Banks and credit unions are new to the most complained-about list. Claims of unauthorized fees, unsatisfactory communication from banks on their policies, and poor customer service were the prevailing theme in the poorly graded reports. Rankings are based on Angie's List analysis of member reports submitted during the first three quarters of 2011.

Forty-six percent of the consumer reviews submitted by Angie’s List members who’d bought a home warranty and reported on their experience in 2011 gave their company poor grades – either a D or F grade overall on the Angie's List grading scale.

"Many times when consumers purchase an existing home, the purchase includes a home warranty to cover plumbing, electrical, heating and cooling and appliances, however all-too-often, the consumers don’t clearly understand the details of the warranty," says Angie's List founder Angie Hicks. "This is reflected in the reports we collect on home warranty companies. Most complaints stem from perceived poor communication by the warranty companies on what exactly the warranties cover, and unsatisfactory work by the contractors the warranty companies provide."

What's the Cost?

As noted, repeat contacts for these types of service complaints or misunderstandings drive unnecessary traffic to the contact center. Additionally, they cost the company in other areas, such as product returns, sales cancellations and, in some cases, complaint mediation.

But what can the contact center do? It doesn’t manufacture goods or develop products.

Consider this: The contact center is the greatest collector or customer intelligence, but leadership must be aware of the types of information that can help the company correct the customer’s brand and product experience. This requires analytic skills as well as the ability to identify and form teams and processes for capturing and delivering critical information.

Additionally, the contact center can serve as a model and mentor to sales divisions. In the call center for the home automation and security provider Vivint, based in Utah, the organization made a remarkable change when it applied call center quality monitoring and coaching methods to its outbound inside sales team. The result was a significant decline in both order cancellations and customer inquiries and complaints related to services. This is a winning story and one that the industries who made it into the complaint leader category on Angie's List can model.

"The good news for companies who provide great customer service is that consumers are sharing those experiences as well. That kind of positive word-of-mouth marketing is invaluable to most business owners," Hicks said.