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New Marchex Call Analytics Data Ranks Which Businesses Get Consumers Cursing Over the Phone

by John Busby | December 18, 2013

By John Busby, Senior Vice President, Marchex Institute 

Earlier this year, we released a state-by-state study looking at where consumers were most likely to flip out and curse when on the phone with a business, and we found that consumers from Ohio colorfully earned that distinction.

As a follow-up, we decided to look at the types of businesses that elicited these profanity-laced tirades, and have a first edition of our Annual Cursing Index – Business Edition.


This study looked at more than 1.2 million phone calls placed to businesses by consumers over the last 2 years. We used Marchex Call Analytics technology to analyze the calls, spotting profanities.

We surveyed 20 industries that rely on consumer phone calls and had a diversity of national or local businesses.

Here is that list, ranked by most likely to elicit a curse:

  1. Satellite TV providers – 1 in every 82 conversations
  2. Housing contractors – 90
  3. Cable providers – 123
  4. Auto Repair – 144
  5. Tow Truck – 159
  6. Locksmith – 192
  7. Storage – 214
  8. Pest Control – 215
  9. Heating & Cooling – 215
  10. House Cleaning – 218
  11. Lawn Care – 271
  12. Carpet Cleaning – 275
  13. Plumbing – 334
  14. Home Buying – 411
  15. Auto Dealers – 870
  16. Flowers – 1,110
  17. Property Management – 1,390
  18. Hotels – 1,486
  19. Senior Living – 1,742
  20. Veterinary – 2,634

You may not be surprised to find that consumers most often curse like a sailor when calling their television providers, with Satellite TV providers receiving the most curses at 1 out of every 82 calls.  Satellite TV narrowly edged out Housing Contractors (1 out of every 90 calls) for this award.

Cable providers also ranked poorly (#3) for consumers flying off the handle.

We conclude that television providers prompt consumer ire for two reasons.  First, long hold times are frustrating and some of the cursing the study detected was during these wait times.  Second, consumers don’t appreciate being surprised about price or level of service and want products and services with easy-to-understand pricing.

Auto repair was #4, presumably due to unexpected cost of service, but also from the situation.  Consumers will drop an f-bomb when their predicament is dire, such as with major auto trouble.  Calls to tow trucks and locksmiths also produce cursing because consumers are upset at the situation, not necessarily the business itself.

Appointment-Based Home Services – such as Pest Control, Lawn Care and Heating & Cooling – all received below-average scores and could be attributed to disconnects in price, availability or quality of service.

So which businesses earn a “clean as a whistle” seal of approval?  Consumers rarely curse when calling up veterinary clinics on behalf of their pets or when ordering flowers… awwwwwww.

Consumers are often also very polite when calling property management and senior living.    We must be on our best behavior when finding a new place to live.

The travel industry, including vacation packages, cruises and hotels also score well,  perhaps because consumers are excited about their upcoming trip. (Airlines weren’t included in this survey.)

What can businesses do to improve service and reduce customer frustration?

  1. Have easy-to-understand and transparent pricing and service.  Nothing makes a consumer more angry than feeling like they missed out on a deal. Or even worse, like they are asked to pay for something they weren’t expecting.
  2. Reduce hold time.  Long hold times leave a lasting impression, and can deter sales.  Calls with a curse had a longer hold time than those that didn’t.
  3. Empathize with the customer and acknowledge why they are upset. It may minimize the situation and allow businesses to move on to remedying the situation.

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