don’t rely on complaints


It is essential to have an efficient complaints management system. Every business slips up, and the manner in which a business addresses a slip up can be the difference between a good outcome and a bad one. Indeed, an effective response to a complaint can turn a bad situation into an opportunity.

One of my businesses once complained about some software purchased. The response was swift and thorough, and the outcome exceeded our expectations. As a consequence, our manager placed highly complementary comments on social media. We all accept that businesses make mistakes. It is how they respond to those mistakes that is the true measure of service.

But, how many people who receive bad service actually complain? Research in the United States suggests that only 4% of people who have a bad experience go to the trouble of complaining – even in this digital media age.

So, when people tell me that their complaint rates are low, I quickly tell them that this is common. I then tell them that up to 90% of people who want to complain, but don’t, never come back.

So what makes people complain?

Clearly, this varies by industry, customer group, and channel.  In the face-to-face environment common factors relate to a lack of:

  • Patience
  • Listening
  • Attentiveness
  • Physical assistance
  • Responsiveness
  • Communication
  • Product knowledge
  • Positive language
  • Empathy
  • Caring

Overriding all of this is, of course, attitude. It is staff attitude that will impact most on these issues, and which will first be detected by customers.

It is in the face-to-face environment that service is most important, and poor service is most evident.

It is the staff attitude that I find most objectionable about Myer. They just do not seem to care.

I have never complained to Myer because I don’t see the point. They are, in my view, unlikely to change. Conversely, I did complain after shopping at David Jones recently, because I was of the view that, in this case, they were likely to respond – and they did. What is more, I viewed David Jones in a more positive light as a result of their response, and said as much on their Facebook page.


  1. Most people who have a bad experience do not complain.
  2. Most people who want to complain, but don’t, are reluctant to come back.
  3. The way in which complaints are handled can create an opportunity out of a problem.
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