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Zendesk Benchmark: Lengthier Communication, Increased Use of Sorry Indicators of Poor Customer Service

Customer satisfaction drops as customer service agents more frequently use apologetic or polite vocabulary in a conversation, while customers benefit by being polite themselves, according to findings of the quarterly Zendesk Benchmark report released today. The special section of the second quarter 2014 report highlights metrics on behavioral cues in interactions between an agent and customer to better understand customer satisfaction beyond customary metrics. In the overall report, global satisfaction increased by 2 points reaching 83 percent customer satisfaction, with the top and bottom industries and countries generally holding steady.

“Our research shows that word choice and word frequency have a direct correlation with customer satisfaction,” said Sam Boonin, vice president of products at Zendesk and research lead on the Zendesk Benchmark report. “We’ve found there are triggers around the word ‘sorry’, and when used more than twice there is a problem brewing. This can be a helpful indicator for companies to know when to escalate a ticket, avoiding an unhappy customer.”

The quarterly report is produced by Zendesk, Inc., a leading cloud-based customer service platform, and is available at

The Zendesk Benchmark report took a closer look at behavioral cues of customers and agents to better understand how these correlate with increased or decreased customer satisfaction. The report evaluated the effect of “sorry,” “please,” and “thank you” in public comments by agents on customer satisfaction. In all three cases, customer satisfaction decreases with increased use of these words. With increasing usage of “sorry,” satisfaction drops at a much faster rate versus using the expressions “thank you” or “please.” The increased usage may indicate interactions with those words require multiple back and forth steps, as well as longer resolution times.

Other In Focus Key Findings

  • Valediction: Interactions with the sign off “Best Wishes,” in comparison to “Best Regards,” “Cheers” and “Yours Sincerely,” have a lower customer satisfaction score between 11-14 percentage points.
  • Word Count: A wordier request for help in an online form leads to lower customer satisfaction, but in email customers can be long-winded with little effect on their satisfaction. In a web form, customer requests with 150 to 200 words in the initial description end up with 10 percent lower satisfaction scores than those where the initial description is only 1 to 50 words. There is no significant difference between satisfaction and those word counts with email.
  • Email Address: Users of Yahoo email provide the lowest customer satisfaction scores at 75.4 percent, significantly lower than .Mac users at 84.6 percent.

Customer Satisfaction by Industry: Social Media Gains

The 2-point rebound in overall customer satisfaction comes as industries with historically poor ratings, including social media and retail, saw recent gains. While still among the most poorly performing industries, social media is no longer in last place and demonstrated the most improvement across all industries in the second quarter, gaining 9 percentage points to reach 78 percent. IT services and consultancy leads in industry rank unchanged at 94 percent customer satisfaction, while education has gained a percentage point. For the first time in three consecutive quarters, government and non-profit has dropped lower than No. 2 in the top industry category.

    TOP INDUSTRIES   Q2 (2014)  

SINCE Q1 (2014)*1

1 IT Services & Consultancy 94% 0
2 Education 93% 1
3 Government & Non-profit 93% -2


  Q2 (2014)  

SINCE Q1 (2014)*1

1 Entertainment & Gaming 75% 1
2 Social Media 78% 9
3 Travel, Hospitality & Tourism 82% 2

Customer Satisfaction by Country: Italy and Columbia Make List for the First Time

For the first time, Italy and Columbia made the list, coming in at No. 4 and No. 30, respectively. New Zealand is steady in the No. 1 spot for the third consecutive quarter, with 93 percent customer satisfaction. Canada and Norway are tied at No. 2 for the second quarter in a row with 92 percent satisfaction. The U.S. rose to No. 14, with an increase of 3 percentage points to 85 percent.

    TOP COUNTRIES   Q2 (2014)  

SINCE Q1 (2014)*1

1 New Zealand 93% 1
2 Canada 92% 2
3 Norway 92% 2
    BOTTOM COUNTRIES   Q2 (2014)  

SINCE Q1 (2014)*1

1 India 58% -1
2 Turkey 68% 6
3 Colombia 71%



1 *Change in percentage points

2 **Did not meet minimum threshold requirement in Q1

About the Zendesk Benchmark

The Zendesk Benchmark is based on actual customer service and support interactions between 25,000 participating organizations and their customers across 140 countries. Introduced in March 2012, it allows organizations to compare their customer service performance against industry peers. It measures key metrics around customer support efficiency, customer self-service behavior, and levels of customer engagement. Customer satisfaction is based on the percentage of positive responses to the question of whether or not a customer was satisfied with a customer service interaction. For a country to be included in the quarterly report, it must have a minimum of 10,000 responses during the quarter.

About Zendesk

Zendesk provides a customer service platform designed to bring organizations and their customers closer together. With more than 45,000 customer accounts, Zendesk is used by organizations in 140 countries to provide support in more than 40 languages. Founded in 2007 and headquartered in San Francisco, Zendesk has operations in the United States, Europe, Asia, Australia and South America. Learn more at

Source: Zendesk, Inc.

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