Beyond Customer Service
Content warning: This content discusses mental health issues, self-harm, and suicide, which some readers may find distressing.
Contacting customer service lines can often equal long wait times, having to navigate an , attempts to negotiate a better deal, and sometimes frustration over a product or service. However, it can also lead to the unexpected: friendships, romance, and a form of therapy that some of us rely on for human contact.
Tackling some tough topics, and some fun ones, we've conducted a survey of over 1,000 Americans to find out exactly how people are using customer service lines for personal matters and when the job goes beyond customer service.
- Over two in five people (43.5%) have called customer service just to speak to someone.
- A concerning stat is that 17.3% of these people who called just to talk, said they did so due to thoughts of suicide or self-harm.
- 46.7% say they have called a customer service phone line as a form of therapy.
- Over half (50.4%) of people surveyed admitted they had felt attracted to customer service personnel.
- Over seven in ten men (72%) say they think they have been offered a better deal due to how charming they were with customer service, compared to 67.7% of women.
Exploring how people use customer service for their own emotions
One key goal of this survey is to understand why people struggling with their mental health are looking to reach out to customer service representatives.
Over two in five (43.5%) of us are turning to customer service for our mental health
Our survey found that 43.5% of people had called a customer service line just to talk to someone.
Of this group who had called for social reasons, the most common reason was to speak to someone who was friendly (65.3%), while more than two-fifths (45.5%) said they were simply bored or trying to pass the time.
A rather concerning stat is that 17.3% of people have called customer service to talk to someone, said they did so due to feeling suicidal or having thoughts of self-harm. Importantly, this is 17.3% of the existing 43.5% of people who contacted customer service just to speak to someone, not all respondents in the survey, irregardless, the number is still alarming.
While human nature may lead to compassionate personnel trying to help, their training typically doesn't prepare them for this type of interaction. These people are experts in customer service and , not therapy and crisis management.
Younger people are more at risk of loneliness and calling customer service for social reasons
One post-pandemic study of over 2,500 Americans found that 58% reported feeling lonely consistently. Our own data on loneliness found that younger generations suffer most, with 18-24 year olds reporting the highest percentage of calling customer service lines ‘just to speak to someone.' followed by 25-34 year olds.
This very much echoes existing studies, such as Harvard's findings, that younger people suffer loneliness at higher rates, and are struggling to find connections and resorting to other means, like a , to fulfill their needs.
46.7% have called customer service lines as a form of therapy
Speaking to someone impartial, like those working in customer service, is a way that some people like to get things off their chest. This section explores how many people overshare with these customer service representatives.
The survey asked if they used calling customer services as an alternative to therapy, to which 46.7% felt that they had. 43.6% of respondents also noted that they consider therapy too expensive, potentially explaining why they may search for alternatives.
The feelings and actions of customers
Almost half of those surveyed (48%) admitted to sharing personal information with a customer service agent, in comparison to 39.6% who say they have not shared personal information.
Many customers become irritated with customer service representatives, especially if they don't address the original reason for the call. So, how many people admit to arguing with a customer service representative?
58.8% have argued with a customer service representative
Almost six in 10 (58.8%) admit to arguing with a customer service representative. With 28.9% of people saying they haven't argued.
While temperatures can get hot when things aren#t working out for the customer, sometimes, people might jump to rudeness and bad language.
42.2% have sworn at a customer service representative
42.2% of people admitted to having sworn at a customer service representative, compared to 48.3% of people saying they haven't sworn at customer service, indicating that, generally Americans are polite enough to not resort to swearing.
What activities do people do while on the phone with or waiting for customer service?
With the average wait time for customer service in the U.S. being between five to 15 minutes and many customers waiting on hold for extended periods, our survey asked respondents what other activities they have participated in while on the phone to customer services.
The most popular activity, from over half of respondents (50.6%), was eating food while on the phone with customer services, with a further three in 10 (30.8%) saying they have watched TV or a movie.
Some customers have engaged in more personal activities, such as going to the toilet (24.6%), masturbating or similar (19.8%), and taking a bath (18.6%).
Another concerning stat is that 12.2% of people said they had at some point self-harmed, or physically hurt themselves, while being on the phone to customer service.
People truly are pushing the boundaries of customer service and professionals on the other end of the phone line may not know what they're up against.
Relationships with customer service personnel
Almost three in 5 (59.2%) of people would like their customer service representatives as their friends
Almost three in five (59.2%) Americans would have liked their customer service representative as their friend. This shows that customer service representatives' friendly and helpful nature means that customers want to befriend them for doing a good job.
As long as this remains just a feeling and goes no further it can be a good thing, however, there is the potential for some customers to go too far and try and track down customer service personnel on social media for example.
More than half (50.4%) are attracted to customer service agents
With customer service representatives being friendly to customers, of those surveyed over half (50.4%) said they had felt attracted to a customer service agent after a conversation with them.
Interestingly, 57.1% of men said they felt attracted to a customer service representative, compared to 46% of women. A further 44.9% of women said they were not attracted to a customer service representative, compared to 30.7% of men.
Regardless of gender, it seems people are charmed by a customer service professional's etiquette on the phone and are more than likely confusing politeness and friendliness for flirting and attraction.
72% of men say they think they were offered a better deal due to how charming they were with customer service
Over seven in 10 men (72%) say they think they have been offered a better deal due to how charming they were with customer service, compared to 67.7% of women who say the same.
In comparison, over one in five women (23%) do not believe they have been offered a better deal because of how charming they are, while almost 2.5% fewer men believe the same (20.5%).
Over three in four people surveyed (76.8%) said that they think starting a conversation is a way to get a good deal.
The future of customer service
38.9% said they prefer to speak to customer service on the phone
According to our survey, just under two in five people (38.9%) said they would currently prefer to speak to customer service on the phone, and just over one in four people (25.8%) said they would rather use an online chat.
45.2% of those surveyed said that a video call with a customer service representative is better
Despite the popularity of phone calls, 45.2% of those surveyed said that a video call with a customer service representative would be better than a phone call. Not all businesses are currently set up for this functionality however many are exploring it as a potential to offer a more personalized service.
Video calls give an opportunity for customers to discuss any issues, but also means they are able to show customer services any issues with products or services in real-time.
47.6% said they would like to be in a virtual room with customer service
With recent advances in technologies like AI and virtual meeting rooms, almost half of the survey respondents (47.6%) said they would like to be in a virtual room with customer service agents, compared to 33.3% who said they wouldn't.
New VR technology like the Apple Vision Pro can create virtual meeting rooms for a more immersive and interactive experience for customers, allowing customer service representatives to troubleshoot issues in real-time.
How to get the best deals out of customer service
As experts in customer service, we can offer some genuine tips to get better deals from customer service professionals without crossing any boundaries.
- Always be polite to customer service representatives. Our survey revealed they deal with people in a range of emotional states, so try your best to be an easy customer and make everyone's experience smoother.
- Be clear in your communications and let the customer service representative know what the issue is and remember it is unlikely to be their fault.
- If you are unsure of anything, don't be ashamed to ask the representative to explain to make the most of your chat together.
- Try to call during quieter times of the day for shorter waiting times, at the end of a working day or during lunch hours will likely be busier than mid-morning for example.
We surveyed 1,106 people to see what they use customer service for beyond their usual activities, outside of dealing with just products and services. The survey also examined how customers treat customer service representatives, and why they would contact customer service if it wasn't for a customer service question.