Can you guess the correct answer to these questions?

A Republican and a Democrat have a problem with their cable bill and decide to call the company’s customer service hotline.

1. Which of them is more likely to curse at the representative on the other end of the line?

2. Who is more likely to raise their voice and scream?

A new study by John A. Goodman, who happens to be one of the founders of the customer service industry and his company CCMR (Customer Care Measurement and Consulting) investigated the current state of consumer rage in the U.S. among people of different political affiliations and found the state of the union is…pretty pissed.

A General Increase in Customer Rage

CCMR interviewed over 1,000 people in a representative household sample and found that since their last Rage survey in 2011 customer rage has increased significantly from 60 percent to 68 percent (indicating the percentage of customers who reported being extremely or very upset). Those numbers translate to over 38 million angry households, 25 million of which are now taking to social media to share their negative experiences (an almost 100 percent increase since 2011).

The increase in customer anger was reflected in customer behavior as the Rage survey found a 30 percent increase in yelling since 2011 and an almost 50 percent increase in cursing (you can read about the impact of customer rage on call center employees here).

The Republican versus Democrat Rage-Off

One of the more interesting findings in the Rage survey was that Republicans and Democrats express rage differently. Republicans report less general customer rage than Democrats (58 percent versus 69 percent for Democrats) and are significantly more trusting of the companies with whom they do business than Democrats (43 percent versus 31 percent for Democrats). However, a more detailed look into the habits of Republicans and Democrats reveals Democrats are not necessarily the angrier of the two.

There are two interesting findings: First, Democrats are far more likely to curse while Republicans are far more likely to yell (13 percent of Democrats let loose with profanity compared to 3 percent of Republicans, while 44 percent of Republicans tend to scream into their phones compared to only 33 percent of Democrats).

Second, and perhaps representing perhaps the truest rage indicator used in the study, Republicans were three times as likely to seek “revenge” against companies that wronged them than Democrats (6 percent for Republicans compared to a docile 2 percent for Democrats).

For those keeping score at home and eager to declare a winner in the rage-race, the bottom line answer about rage and political affiliation, as least as it pertains to consumers is—it depends. If you consider cursing worse than yelling, Democrats take the crown. If you consider getting revenge as the truest expression of rage, Republicans win hands down.

The Reason Customer Rage Is Rising

Today, companies allocate more resources than ever to customer service so why is customer rage on the rise? Something in corporate America’s handling of customer complaints is clearly not working and John A. Goodman knows exactly what it is. In a recent conversation, he told me, “Companies are doing all the right things but in all the wrong ways.” For example, having toll-free numbers is the right thing to do but having long wait times is the wrong way to do it. Similarly, having polite and courteous customer service representatives is great but not if companies fail to empower them to solve common problems.

Goodman’s new book, Customer Service 3.0 (AMACOM, August 2014) draws on his forty years of experience in the field (his first Rage survey was conducted in 1976). Let’s hope he and others can begin to make a dent in the stubborn misapplication of customer service principles that characterize far too many companies.

What Customer Rage Costs Customers and Companies

CCMR’s Rage survey concluded that as a result of businesses poor complaint handling practices they are risking 75 billion dollars in revenue—a problem Goodman, and many customer service experts know how to fix. The problem has been that despite the incredible impact to their bottom lines, companies don’t listen.

As for consumers, the aggravation, anger and yes, rage we experience when we fail to resolve our problems with products or services isn’t do our emotional health any favors. When we experience such problems we don’t just stew over them, we tell many people about them, thus reliving the aggravation over and over again. By doing so, we don’t just release stress hormones into our bodies but we end up feeling demoralized and victimized, and sabotaging our feelings of efficacy and personal empowerment.

The good news is, we don’t have to wait for companies to change to avoid such outcomes. We can actually use consumer complaints to increase our personal empowerment (read how here), and we can become more educated about how to treat small emotional injuries before they fester and become large ones.

We’d love to hear who you think is more enraged Democrats or Republicans—so feel free to tell us your thoughts in the comments section.

For more about how to treat common psychological injuries, check out Emotional First Aid: Practical Strategies for Treating Failure, Rejection, Guilt, and Other Everyday Psychological Injuries (Hudson Street Press, 2013).

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Copyright 2014 Guy Winch

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