Consumer Rage is on the Rise, But Sincere Apologies Still Matter

by Chris Bjorklund


I was quietly fuming when I had to wait more than an hour past my scheduled time for a medical procedure. I arrived 15 minutes early for the 6:30am appointment. People who arrived later than I did were ushered into the office. Finally, the nurse came for me and sincerely apologized for the delay. She explained that they were short-staffed. A few more people in the office, including the doctor, apologized as I was being prepped. My anger quickly dissolved because they acknowledged my inconvenience.

According to the National Customer Rage Survey, consumers who aren’t satisfied with a product or service are often extremely dissatisfied with how companies respond to their complaints. This has led to a rise in “consumer rage,” meaning belligerent or violent behavior and social media shaming. One surprising discovery was that almost 20% of Americans admit they have behaved uncivilly over a consumer matter during the past year.

The study notes that the number of consumers experiencing product or service problems has doubled since 1976, the problems wasted up to two days of their time, and 31% of those surveyed suffered emotional distress. Complaining digitally (email, chat, social media) has replaced phone calls as the main way to report a problem. About one-third of complainants in the survey complained to both the company and social media sites, which is double the amount reported in 2020.

The survey’s authors are concerned that customer hostility is “mutating like a virus” with both consumers and companies misbehaving. That simply fuels the fire. They emphasize what we all know deep down: that defusing consumer rage begins and ends with acknowledging someone’s complaint and making a sincere apology.

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