Consumers report more problems than ever with products and services

They’re increasingly seeking revenge against companies and brands, according to a recent survey.
A graphic of a man pushing a slider toward an angry face.
  • Nearly three-quarters of consumers say they experienced issues with a product or service. 
  • That’s up from 66% of consumers in 2020 and 56% in 2017, according to a new survey.
  • Half of consumers use digital channels to lodge complaints with a business, up from just 5% a decade ago.

Consumers in the U.S. are reporting more issues with brands, their products and their services than ever before, according to a new survey. 

According to findings from the National Customer Rage survey, released March 7, 74% of the 1,000 consumers surveyed said they experienced a problem with a service or product within the last year, up from 66% in 2020 and 56% in 2017. More than half — 56% — said the problem wasted their time, 43% said they lost money because of the problem and 31% said the problem caused them emotional distress. 

When the rage survey was first conducted in 2013, just 5% of those surveyed said they complained about a product or service using a digital channel — e-mail, chat or social media. In the latest survey, 50% of consumers used digital channels rather than the telephone to lodge a complaint with a company.

Consumers also increasingly turn to social media platforms to publicly shame companies. According to the survey, 32% of consumers who complained also posted about their experience online, double the number that did so just three years ago in 2020. Social media has become increasingly important as a tool for retailers, as more consumers, especially younger shoppers, expect brands to talk and interact with them online

The survey results mirror larger trends across sectors, but especially in the retail industry. As Retail Leader Pro recently reported, shoppers are unhappy with the in-store experience. A recent Theatro survey found more than 40% of U.S. consumers said in-person shopping experiences were "less enjoyable" than before the COVID-19 pandemic, with 64% citing poorly trained or unprepared retail staff and 60% blaming inadequate staffing levels. 

According to the customer rage survey, conducted by the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University, 63% of customers report having rage as a result of trying to solve a problem with a company. More consumers are turning that rage into action, the survey found. In 2020, 35% of consumers said they raised their voices to show displeasure about a problem. In the latest survey, 43% said they did so. 

The survey estimated that businesses risk losing $887 billion in future revenue from the improper handling of consumer complaints, up from $494 billion in 2020.

"Defusing customer rage is not rocket science,” said Thomas Hollmann, executive director of the Center for Services Leadership at the W.P. Carey School of business, in the release. “Although many customers are looking for repairs or refunds, they're also hoping for a sincere apology and acknowledgment of their complaints. 

“These no-cost actions show that the company cares, is listening to the customer, and values them. It's up to brands to communicate as humans with their customers. A sincere, 'I'm sorry this happened,' can turn a potential blowup into a lifelong customer,” he said.