Complaining Customers are a Good Thing?

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Motivational speaker Zig Zigler once said, “Statistics suggest that when customers complain, business owners and managers ought to get excited about it. The complaining customer represents a huge opportunity for more business.” But people rarely tend to appreciate the complaining customer anymore. They are a hassle. They complicate the day. They cause distractions. The aggravate employees. Now while some of this is true on the surface, it is also the very worst way to look at the complaining customer issue.

Some studies have revealed that only 1 in 50 customers take the time and effort to complain. So that leaves 49 who do not – at least not to the company directly or verbally. So, what happens to this other 49 non-complainers? Well, they have their say to friends and family, on social media to thousands of followers, or with their actions as they simply take their money elsewhere.

Bill gates once said, “Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning,” and that is true. When a customer takes the time to complain, then that is the time when customer service becomes real. How you handle the situation will either win the customer’s loyalty, and that can spread through their social circles, or it can cause further negativity, also spreading throughout their circles.

Complaining customers often give you input as to what you need to do to make things better for all customers. They could be speaking as a representative of some of the 49 that do not. They could represent a large base of customers who are silently walking away and you don’t even realize it. When you encounter such a customer, this should be a good thing, and a great time to listen, learn and apply.

Listen to what they are saying. Pay attention to their frustrations, and get to the bottom of the issue.  Once the issue is identified, it can be addressed and resolved for everyone. Learn what it is they expected and how they were let down. Learn what it will take to get them back as a customer. Apply all of that information to a satisfactory resolution for all parties involved. If you let the customer remain aggravated, and they walk away unhappy, it can multiply quickly into negativity that can hurt the company.

A company suffers greatly if they do not already have a feedback system in place – some way for customers to voice their opinions non-verbally. Whether it is the suggestion box type written system, or a quick and easy online system, there must be some outlet for the customer to have easy access to. This will give more and more non-confrontational/silent customers the ability to have their say, and will give the company the ability to improve and resolve their problems.

When there is a complaint, it should be used as a learning tool, and should be shared in training exercises with the rest of the crew so others can learn the rights and wrongs of the situation. As Suzanne Ross rightly points out in an article at Cvent, “Openly share the feedback you collect and the lessons learned from complaining customers within your company.” She goes on and follows that up by saying it is a good idea to “Reward your employees for helping to provide a better customer experience. After all, customer satisfaction is linked to employee satisfaction.” As for the idea of rewards, I would add that it tends to be better if the reward system does not become the reason for service. A great CSR is one because of a passion for helping others, whereas a rewards system can just make employees strive for a prize and not honestly strive for better customer service.

When it comes to offering great service, there have been many inspirational and catchy sayings that have been said and repeated by the industry greats, and yes, many of them should be hung on your wall as suggested by Carla Gates in her article 12 Customer Service Quotes to Hang on Your Office Wall. In closing, I wish to share a few of them from her as well as a couple from Matt McConnell from Intradeim as good reminders of what makes a great CSR and company.

“Customers don’t expect you to be perfect. They do expect you to fix things when they go wrong.” - Donald Porter, VP, British Airways

“Do what you do so well that they will want to see it again and bring their friends.”

- Walt Disney

“A customer is the most important visitor on our premises; he is not dependent on us. We are dependent on him. He is not an interruption in our work. He is the purpose of it. He is not an outsider in our business. He is part of it. We are not doing him a favor by serving him. He is doing us a favor by giving us an opportunity to do so.” - Mahatma Gandhi

So, the bottom line is, as you are seeking to secure a job in the customer service industry, be sure you are doing so with the proper mindset that you are there for the customer’s ultimate satisfaction. As long as that continues to be your primary goal, you should find success in the field.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at


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