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Customer service can make or break brand loyalty

millennial shopper
Customer service is vital to creating loyalty.

A new survey reveals how customer service can influence consumers to stay with – or abandon – a brand.

According to third annual "Consumer Insights about Customer Service" survey, conducted among 1,000 U.S. adults by OnePoll and commissioned by call center platform provider TCN, 73% of respondents are likely to abandon a brand after just one poor customer service experience. This is the second year in a row this number has increased, as only 42% of respondents stated this in 2021, but 66% said so in 2022.

Conversely, when asked how likely or unlikely they were to make a repeat purchase with a brand after a positive customer service experience, 81% of respondents said they were either very likely or somewhat likely to do so.

[Read more: What makes a shopping experience convenient?]

Separating good and bad customer service experiences

Talking to a live agent by phone was the number customer one choice for the third year in a row, with 53% of people choosing this option – and up from 49% in 2022. The top three options have remained the same all three years, with email coming in at number two (52%) and online chat with a live agent at number three (45%).

The preference for dealing with a live agent remains consistent; when asked what is most important when contacting a company's customer service department, 52% of Americans said the ease of getting through to a live agent.

Meanwhile, the survey reveals how long customers feel they are having to wait affects their opinion of a customer service experience. While 58% of respondents are willing to wait between two to seven minutes, 90% are not willing to wait longer than 10 minutes.

Yet, 58% of respondents have said they have waited more than 10 minutes, with 16% waiting 31 minutes or longer.

The top customer service frustration for the second year in a row (50%) was waiting on hold for a long time and then being disconnected. Having to talk to several people to resolve an issue was the number two frustration for the third year in a row, with nearly half (49%) of respondents choosing this as a negative experience.

Additionally, having to deal with someone who can't resolve a customer's issue remains a top frustration, with 44% of respondents citing this as a problem.

Spreading the news

The survey shows that many respondents will discuss their customer service interactions, both positive and negative, online. Slightly more than half (51%) post online about positive customer service experiences. This is a substantial increase from 31% in 2021. About three-quarters (76%) said they would recommend a brand after one positive customer service experience.

Meanwhile, nearly half (44%) of respondents have posted an online review about a poor customer service experience. This includes 75% of Gen Z (18-26) respondents, compared to only 24% of baby boomers (59-77). Over half of millennials (27-42) and Gen X (43-58) have also posted about a negative experience.

Other key findings include:

  • Seven in 10 (69%) respondents are willing to pay more for brands with good customer service. This is especially true for the younger generations, as 87% of Gen Z and 86% of millennials say they will pay more.
  • When asked what they consider the top qualities of a customer service agent to be, the top three answers remained the same compared to 2022. "Ability to solve my issue" was the top choice (59%), followed by "willingness to help" (54%) and "knowledge about the product or service." (47%).
  • When asked what action they were likely to take when there is a long wait time, the number one choice, chosen by 44%, was to be put in a queue and called back.
  • When asked how satisfied they were with using self-service options, 68% of respondents overall were satisfied, but 91% of Gen Z and 85% of millennials expressed satisfaction. When explicitly asked about chatbots, the overall satisfaction level was 58%, but 82% of millennials and 75% of Gen Z said they were satisfied using customer service chatbots.


[Read more: Customers rate traditional chatbots vs. ChatGPT assistants]

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