5 Causes of Customer Frustration with Call Center Service (And How to Fix Them)

by Mindful
 • May 12, 2022
 • 6 min to read
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Frustrated customers are unhappy customers, and unhappy customers can cost a business loyalty, revenue (about $3.6 trillion per year), and reputation.

While recovering from any form of lost business can prove difficult, the loss of reputation can have the longest lasting effect. According to a study by Hiver, 89% of customers publicly chatter about their poor experience with a business months and even years into the future—serving as an almost permanent damper on future business growth and revenue.

To prevent customer frustration (and all the pain associated with it) your business must fine tune every point of the customer experience—beginning with your business’s front line: the contact center.

We’ve dug in to find the five most common triggers for customer frustration in the call center and show you how you can prevent them.

1. Confusing phone tree menu options

Customers have a strained relationship with IVR phone tree menus. When executed well, they can be incredibly helpful in connecting customers with the right customer service department and preventing frustration. But when executed poorly, customers can get stuck in a confusing loop of repeating menu tree options and IVR dead ends.

A Vonage survey revealed that 61% of customers consider IVR menus a “poor customer experience.” Forty-seven percent stated they felt frustration, seven percent felt stress, and six percent felt outright anger when offered a phone menu as a support option. The top complaints about IVR phone systems include:

  • “The reasons for calling might not be listed.” (65%)
  • “Being forced to listen to irrelevant options.” (63%)
  • “Menus are usually too long.” (46%)

Your business can reduce the risk of customer frustration by eliminating confusing phone menu options altogether.Phone trees should be reviewed regularly to see where gaps or opportunities may exist. Go through your IVR system with someone who doesn’t work for your organization, note the areas where they experience any friction or lack of clarity, and identify areas that could be cut or combined.

For more: There are plenty of ways to improve your IVR sequence.

2. Extended hold times

When a customer takes the time to call your contact center, it’s typically because they were unable to get help elsewhere or find a solution to their problem on their own. Asking a frustrated customer to spend more time on the phone is an added burden to their day.

More than half of customers (57%) say that a long hold time is their number one source of frustration when calling a business. Not only that, but as hold time increases, so does their chance of abandoning the call and becoming a repeat caller—costing your contact center extra time and resources.

An alternative to placing callers on hold is to offer them the option to be placed in a virtual queue for a callback. Rather than sit with their phone held to their ear, virtual queues let callers keep their spot in line and get back to their day until it’s their turn for a customer service representative to call them back. This turns active waiting into passive waiting, and our own research shows that callers are 200% more tolerant of a virtual queue as opposed to a traditional queue.

For more: We ran the numbers. See how long your customers should be on hold.

3. Poor agent training

Nothing is more frustrating than finally getting through to a real human—especially after a confusing IVR sequence or long hold time—and discovering they’re not very helpful at all.

Poorly trained agents are ultimately unhelpful agents, and unhelpful agents lead to unhappy callers.

Agent training is a crucial component and should be front and center when considering customer frustration in call centers. To produce better agents, ongoing training should focus heavily on customer empathy and quick resolution.

  • Customer empathy: Your agents should be skilled in making a genuine connection with customers by using personalization in all their communication, acknowledging customer concerns, using positive language, and actively listening.
  • Quick resolution: Agent experience is the biggest factor in providing quick, succinct resolutions. This only comes with time and practice—both of which can be accelerated with mentorship programs, thorough internal knowledge bases, and regular performance reviews.

Additionally, callback technology can help improve agent performance by reducing customer frustration (no long hold times) and improving first contact resolution.

Related: Give your entire organization an advantage with company-wide customer experience training.

4. Poor sound quality

When callers can’t hear the call or understand the agent, they feel they’re wasting valuable time and effort—leaving them frustrated and feeling unappreciated. And although VoIP phone systems are simple to set up and operate, they’re notorious for delivering poor, jittery sounding audio and latency problems.

When routing calls through a call center, the internet sends all data in data packets using VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocols). But VoIP is affected by network congestion, which then results in echoes, lag, and dropped calls.

Your call center can alleviate customer frustration with poor sound quality with simple solutions, such as:

  • Obtaining a dedicated VoIP router (which prioritizes voice calls over other data packets)
  • Upgrading to an improved internet connection
  • Using a jitter buffer, which delays phone traffic for 30 to 200 milliseconds before sending the call on to your agent. This allows data packets to arrive without delay and in the order received.
  • Using a service that tests your call center audio quality

5. Unnecessary transfers and dropped calls

Unnecessary transfers and dropped calls frustrate customers because they have to repeat their case information to another agent after each instance. Findings show that more than 70% of customers expect companies to collaborate on their behalf, and 68% of customers get annoyed when they’re transferred between departments.

The simplest way of reducing call transfers is to make sure the caller talks to the right agent or department the first time. This requires contact centers to take a connected, omnichannel approach to customer service—allowing customer context and intent to easily carry over between interactions.

If a customer starts their journey on your website, interacts with your website chatbot, and then calls your business, an integrated approach would collect this data to serve as the foundation for the customer’s phone call. A solution like Mindful Handoff can harness the power of AI to collect all this data, offer self-serve suggestions, and provide the caller’s context to an agent—letting the agent to know exactly who is calling and why so they can better serve them.

Automating certain processes, like commonly asked questions about operating hours or verifying a customers’ information, will also help with unnecessary transfers. Smart automation can help a business improve efficiency and reduce handoffs by getting the right agent to the customer without a handoff through another agent.

Dropped calls are pretty much out of your call center’s hands—if there’s a recurrent problem with a phone system or internet provider, it’s simply time to find another service provider. No business can afford to lose customers due to dropped calls or system outages.

Summing up: Tackle customer frustration head-on.

Showing a customer you appreciate them is key. A Forrester report reveals that when a company makes customers feel appreciated, 76% of customers say they’ll keep their business with the brand, 80% will spend more, and 87% will recommend the brand to others.

You can show that appreciation by identifying the roadblocks of customer frustration and working toward customer-first solutions.

Bad customer service will create caller frustration and cost you in revenue and customer churn—but it can be fixed. Although it can originate from a wide range of issues, finding out precisely where the frustration exists lets you reverse engineer solutions. But fixing those problems has to be immediate. You want to avoid damaging your company’s reputation in your customer’s eyes.

Don’t take that chance—tackle customer frustration issues early and repair them immediately.


Note: This post was originally published in March 2015, and has since been updated.


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