4 Reasons Why Unsatisfied Customers Don’t Complain (and Why You Want Them to)

We know that customer service and overall customer experience is a vital cog in the system of success, but now more than ever before. Customers are no longer basing their brand loyalty on pricing or product. They now stay loyal to companies simply due to experiences. Stats show that 96% of customers say customer service is a critical component in which brands they stay loyal to and customer-centric companies are 60% more profitable than companies who don’t focus on customer needs.

But there seems to be a disconnect.

Did you know that 1 in 26 unhappy customers will not complain? And 91% of unhappy customers will simply leave a business without ever bringing their issues to customer service?

Why is it that brand experiences are so important to customers, but most of them avoid the opportunity to make theirs better?

Why many unhappy customers never complain

Research done by John A. Goodman over the course of four decades, presented in his book Strategic Customer Service: Managing the Customer Experience to Increase Positive Word of Mouth, Build Loyalty, and Maximize Profits, has identified four main reasons most unhappy customers choose not to complain:

1. Customers think complaining won’t change anything

In this case, customers have either complained in the past and no changes were made or no resolution provided to them, or they assume the problem is an industry-standard and that a company simply doesn’t care about them – like others they’ve encountered in the past. Statistics show that a whopping 79% of consumers who shared a complaint about poor customer experience online were ignored. If a customer sees giving feedback as a waste of time there’s no incentive for them to bring concerns to your business’s attention.  

79% of consumers who shared a complaint about poor customer experience online were ignored.

(Harris Interactive)

2. Customers have a fear of damaging a long-term relationship with a business

In cases where a customer has an ongoing relationship with a business, the customer may fear conflict or potential retribution if they complain. Will they receive worse service next time? Will an employee that made a mistake get fired because of them? Will it damage their business partnership?

Goodman makes a great example of this through a relatable fear we all might have had at one time or another: complaining about a restaurant server to their manager before the server brings our food. To avoid potential negative consequences of their complaint, customers choose to keep quiet for convenience and comfort.

3. Customers believe their issue is not critical enough to report

Oftentimes customers experience an issue, but it’s minute and they feel it’s not worth the hassle of complaining about, so they won’t bring it up at all. They would rather save the time and effort it takes to make a complaint and use it on something else more important.

4. The complaint process is too difficult

Many customers don’t complain because they simply don’t know how to escalate their complaint beyond the customer service staff member they are currently dealing with, can’t reach the correct department, or find themselves on hold for hours. If they do wait for a general manager they might end up talking to someone who can’t actually fix their problem and this discourages them from making further complaints. In fact, 72% of people see having to explain their problem to multiple people as poor customer service, and 44% of consumers say a customer representative has given them the wrong information.

There’s another reason why unsatisfied customers don’t complain: you never ask them for feedback.

5.  Customers don’t want to give unsolicited feedback

Some customers are simply more reserved than others and will not go out of their way to provide feedback unless you explicitly ask them for it, even if they’re dissatisfied.

3 Reasons why customer complaints are good for business

Negative customer feedback isn’t always a bad thing. Learn how customer complaints can be used to help improve your products, services, operations, and customer experience.

1. Complaints identify important areas of service in need of improvement

Customer complaints help identify problems with the features or aspects of your products or services that aren’t as convenient or well-developed as other areas. Over 60% of customer experience professionals use customer feedback to help them prioritize better investments in products, services, and customer experiences.

Instead of searching for ways to make your services and products more appealing to your target audience, you can easily look at your customer complaints as a resource of insights on what part of your product and services need to be adjusted or upgraded. By looking at bad reviews you will often find good ideas from customers for improving your products and services that you didn’t think of previously.

Customer complaints also help identify specific departments that are typically falling short, as well as staff members who may need additional training, closer supervision, or possible termination.

2. Complaints help identify needed improvements in company policies and procedures

Customer complaints are really a reality check for your business. They can help identify operational deficiencies – highlighting flaws in your internal processes and pinpointing what areas of your external operations are not working well for customers. You can create a more efficient operation by knowing which procedures and policies are effective and efficient, and which ones can be reworked or simply discarded altogether. This makes strategic planning for growth and development much easier. 

3. Complaints open more doors for customer communication 

Complaints give your business more opportunities to speak with customers. Knowing and understanding your customers is a key point every successful business focuses on. When you know more about your customers; who they are, what their interests are, and what they think about your company, you can build more effective sales and marketing strategies.

Customer complaints can also indicate if any information your company is providing through your website, marketing materials, sales reps, or other communication channels is misleading, out of date, or simply lacking clarity. Statistics show that unhappy customers tend to leave companies because they don’t feel like a company cares about them, so it’s important to let them know that their feedback is valued and their opinions are acknowledged, even if it’s a dagger to the company’s ego.

It’s also critical to act on complaints and provide quick resolutions. This makes it clear to customers there is an open line of communication and their thoughts and problems matter to your company, which increases the chance they’ll continue doing business with you and/or provide a positive review of your company to their friends and family. The average American will tell 15 people about a poor customer experience. Customer loyalty is not just about catering to your promoters and happy customers, it’s about taking care of each customer as if they were your only customer.

Related: Voice of the Customer: A Guide for Housing Professionals

Want to learn more about negative reviews and how you can use them to help your business? Check out our article: Negative Reviews: 6 Ways They Benefit Your Bottom Line.

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