Customers are complaining more. That’s a good thing

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Recently, I’ve spotted a couple of stories about complaints that made me think:

Some firms feel like the number of complaints that they are receiving is going up whilst some feel that it is going down.

At the same time, many firms are working hard at resolving customer complaints quicker.

However, the bigger change underlying all of this is that our propensity, as customers, to complain is going up.

Personally, I think that is a good thing. Good for customers and good for businesses too. Despite how complaints may make us feel.

Why?

For too long, many customers, particularly in the UK, have suffered in silence when things weren’t quite right. This is rooted in the belief that to complain was unsightly or wasn’t the ‘done thing’. Instead, we’d leave whilst muttering under our breathe that we’d never patronise this business again and then proceed to moan to all of our friends about it.

I think that type of behaviour still exists.

But, now customers have so much more choice and may have done so much more research before they buy that when something goes wrong they really feel let down. And, proceed to tell you all about it.

That may feel harsh when you are on the receiving end of a complaint but they did pick you and now they are disappointed.

But, I believe, that complaining and receiving complaints is a good thing. Why? Because at least your customers are talking to you.

What was it that Oscar Wilde said:

“The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about.”

Being Ignored

The reality is that any healthy business that is striving to be better and to grow will make mistakes and, so, complaints will happen.

That’s way better than the opposite…where you’re not trying hard enough to make mistakes, you don’t care enough to pay attention to complaints and nobody is talking about you or to you.

I pray that you are the former.

You may not like complaints. That’s a normal human reaction.

All I would say is: Get used to it. Learn to embrace the complaints. Because, as long as you are learning from your mistakes and are putting wrongs right, your customers will forgive you and keep talking to you and about you.

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Photo Credit: Pak Gwei via Compfight cc

Comments

  1. Adrian,

    In 1986 I was 18 and lived in North Yorkshire. There was a girl I liked, I liked her a lot, lets call her Cathy. She was blonde, funny and very pretty. But we were just friends.

    In September that year I left to go to University in Liverpool. The night before I went I went to the pub with all my old school friends. At about 10:45pm (remember last orders?) Cathy dissolved into tears and told me how much she loved me and how much she would miss me.

    Her parents moved and I never saw Cathy again.

    The point of my Mills and Boon moment is that (and I remember thinking this quite vividly at the time). If Cathy had #@!!%& told me this earlier I might just have had the sense to do something about it.

    Complaints and compliments aren’t so different in that way. Both are better out than in.

    James

  2. Hello Adrian
    Are complaints, more complaints, a good thing? Let’s get specific with this. For whom do complaints show up as a good thing? Let’s go even further, who has a listening for complaints?

    Does the CEO of a large organisation have a listening for complaints? If so then how much time does s/he spend in the place where complaints show up and/or handled? Does the CEO actually handle the complaints? Does he pick up a phone and speak to the customer who is complaining? Does he write an email? Or respond via a blogpost to show what has been changed to address that category or complaint?

    Do complaints, especially more complaints, show up as a good thing for the team charged with handling complaints? Let’s get this right, these folks have to do more work, and are under more pressure, most likely because of the lack of resources that the organisation commits to handling complaints.

    What about the people/departments that are the sources of complaints that show up? Are they up on the tables dancing/rejoicing that there are more complaints? How many have you seen?

    In a domination/fear, master/slave, system that exists in business complaints do not show up as a good thing. Not at all. Which is why companies make it hard to complain. And why few customers complain.

    Maz

    • Hi Maz,
      I would agree that many companies do make it hard for customers to complain as they are conditioned to not care or that they fear criticism. However, if the CEO did get more involved in the complaints handling, regardless of the size of the organisation, then I am sure (or rather, I would hope) it would change their view of their customers issues, how they view their company and, in turn, what the company does in return.

      But, maybe I’m just being naïve.

      Adrian

  3. Adrian,

    I think we complain more because service just sucks more. It’s those moments when service or overall experiences are great that just flabbergast us anymore because they are so rare. I’ve had a couple of those lately… I’ll write about one this coming week.

    Bottom line, for any business to ignore the feedback they receive, whether it’s complaints or compliments, is just bad for business. Want to let your customers know you don’t care about them? Just ignore them.

    Look to the companies who had to reverse their policies on additional fees last year to see what a voice consumers do have when things are not right. And look to those same companies for listening. They don’t always do it, but in those situations, they did.

    It seems, perhaps, we should complain more. :-)

    Annette :-)

  4. Sabrina says:

    I say that first direct is worst in delivering customer services. It’s all crab, liars , deceit just to get your money!! Em b’tads froze my bank account without any notice and no reason valid reason , they ‘ve the upper hand and with their corruption around, they shut u out everywhere!!They messed up our life and most detrimental is that of the children ! The don’t care about customer srvice but about the money . They think GOD is not watching , look what is happening to em !!!

  5. I believe that as a customer, I have every right to complain when service or goods are not up to scratch. I also give compliments where they are due. Luckily I have come across a website called http://www.hellopeter.com which helps me to have direct contact with Suppliers, and I can even view what others have been saying about the same Supplier (http://hellopeter.com/complaints-compliments-customer-service-reports).

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