Do your customers care enough to complain?

If a product or service doesn’t match our expectations we feel disappointed and let down. But often we don’t care enough about it to complain.

So when we do complain our emotions can be running pretty high. If we’re on the receiving end of that complaint, it can sometimes be pretty intimidating. It’s hard to remember we should be grateful for their feedback.

Image of a man complaining over the phone

Think about it …

At what point do you decide you’re going to complain?

How disappointed, frustrated or angry do you have to be?

Why do you feel that way?

People complain because …

They’ve spent money and don’t feel they’ve got what they paid for.

They’ve invested time and effort in their purchase. Researching what they need, where they can buy it from, reading reviews, price comparison, making a decision, ordering – and what they get doesn’t live up to their expectations so all that time and effort seems wasted. Or they’ve taken time off work to use the product that’s broken, or have waited in for someone to come and deliver a service, like fixing their washing machine and they don’t turn up.

They’ve had to disappoint someone because of the product or service you sold. This could be a birthday party at a restaurant and the service was non-existent. Or a delivery not made on time. Or items needed to finish a client’s project don’t work as expected so the project falls behind schedule.

They’ve banked on the product or service to solve a specific problem, time’s short and it doesn’t do what was promised.

They’re regular customers, they love your business and have expectations based on previous experience. But this time they feel let down. They might not even be angry – sometimes disappointment from people you know and respect can feel just as bad, or even worse.

How many customers actually complain?

As it turns out, research by Esteban Kolsky at thinkJar found that just 1 in 26 unhappy customers complain – the rest just churn.


And that’s unhappy customers.

People that had a poor or bad experience but didn’t complain to you.

Chances are they’ve complained to someone else – likely to be at least 13 people directly and who knows how many online or on social media. 

Man shouting down the phone complaining
Man who is frustrated on the phone
Be grateful for your customer complaints

So the person you’re hearing from is the 1 in 26.

The one that cares enough to complain.

The one you’re going to learn from – what riles your customers, what you can do better, what you should start doing, what you should stop doing …

You get the most useful information from your customer complaints. Use it well.

Say “Thank you for telling me.” to the customer that’s taken the time and effort to reach out.

Even if they’re red in the face and have been ranting at you for 5 minutes.

Say thank you before you make any apology.

Then find out what you can do to make the situation better. With a calmer customer that knows you’re genuinely listening and interested in what they have to say.

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