Youp and NRC collect customer service complaints

In the month of November 2010 Youp van’t Hek and NRC Handelsblad asked their Dutch readers to send an e-mail to about their ‘ridiculous experiences’ with help desks. More than 6.000 e-mails were send!
Maastricht University in collaboration with InSites Consulting analyzed the e-mails send to We listed up some of the key results for you:

A first remark was that two thirds of the e-mails was sent by men.
What are they complaining about? Generally about rather basic problems: technical interruptions, faulty equipment or a service that is not delivered at all. This is mainly the case for cable, telephone and Internet companies. Over a quarter of the complaints concern administrative errors, e.g. wrong address changes, incorrect personal data and errors made in case of bereavement. This is often the case in the financial sector. 20% of people complain about money-related issues: subscription money withdrawn incorrectly, problems with fines or debt-collecting agents. This is the case both in the financial sector and for cable, Internet and mobile telephone providers. Finally, 15% of the e-mail writers complain about availability. Major sources of irritation are the long waiting periods and limited opening times, especially at government organizations.
Most people (72%) first communicate their complaint to the company by telephone, 11 percent via e-mail or an Internet-based web form. Only 5% send a paper letter. Another 5% starts a conversation in person. It is striking that the majority of complaints communicated via post or e-mail is still unresolved, whereas many complaints communicated via telephone or in person have been resolved – either because the company has solved the problem, or because the client gave up.
Strangely enough, no less than 12% of all mail writers have not received any reaction at all from the company they sent a complaint to. Over a quarter of people say that the company does not take responsibility for the complaint. According to another 40%, the complaint handling is simply unsatisfactory. The percentage of people who are considering switching – or have already switched – to another company is better than expected: 18%.
The Maastricht team analyzed the words expressing emotions in the e-mails, using special software at InSites Consulting. It is hardly a surprise that people turned out to be mainly disappointed and angry, and sometimes slightly afraid. Women did indeed send fewer e-mails than men, but they do express some more intense emotions.
The energy sector makes people the angriest and the most anxious; the financial sector disappoints them the most. These emotions are the least intense in the retail sector, maybe because people are more often personally in touch with someone at the company, which might slightly take the edge of things. Another interesting fact: people are mainly afraid when the complaint is related to their primary need, such as finances or energy. Although Youp’s action started with a telecom company, people appear to be even more emotional when other types of companies do not handle their complaints well.
A selection of the e-mails send to are bundled in a magazine called HELP, a publication by the NRC Handelsblad.

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