Who doesn’t like complainers?

In my various seminars, I’ve heard one statement made over and over again. “Nobody likes a complainer." I differ. I like complainers.

Why?

Because a complainer is doing me a favor. They are the extension of any research I could ever do. And research is very costly.

And they also are not paid but providing every one of us with invaluable and often real time feedback on what isn’t working in your business or your relationship with them. How can anyone put a price tag on that.

Through various surveys we find that customers voice their displeasure with their feet…they just walk away from your company. They simply go away. One day they are dissatisfied and the next they are gone. They disappear.

By the time you realize they are gone, it’s too late.

This is why I like and celebrate the “complainer.” The data they provide makes the improvement I need to make in my company possible.

Most of the time customers are convinced that you don’t care and won’t correct the problems, so when you find a customer who cares enough to share with you how you could improve, they should be valued and rewarded.

Recognize the long term value of fixing a problem that a customer has experienced. Remember this. For each customer that complains, many more have already left you as a customer/client or…and this is important…they will if you don’t’ fix your problem.

Set up a system to make it easy for your customers/clients to give you feedback and listen intently when they do come forth. Telling a customer “ nobody else has complained” misses the point and is probably a lie that they will see through.

Here are some steps you could take to leverage complaints and turn them into constructive improvement.

1. Thank the customer for taking the time to let you know of the bad experience they had in doing business with you.

2. Honor their courage to speak up and let them know that you appreciate it.

3. Reward them for coming forth by giving them complimentary items, preferential treatment, or discounts. I’m sure you can think of others things to reward them with.

4. And when you have corrected and acted on their complaint, communicate with them and tell them. Your responsiveness will strengthen the bond between you and them.

If you really think about it, a complaint is really a compliment. They cared enough to let you know about the problem and to allow you to fix it. They will now think that you are capable of doing so in the future and will be happy when you do. They now become a lifelong customer.

What do you think? Let me know in the comment section below.


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59 Responses to “Who doesn’t like complainers?”

  1. Hi Ken,

    SUPERB and spot on! The worst is when a client leaves with no explanation. Is the same as being ignored. I’d rather have someone call me names and say they hate me because then I know how they feel about me. Or share how great I am, etc for the same end result, yet it is the silent type who just go away that hurts. The ultimate insult like being ignored. Encouraging feedback via newsletters and all communications (surveys too) may cause some front end extra work yet will go miles in retention and growth! Thanks again for a great article! MPC

    [Reply]

    Ken Varga Reply:

    @Michael Carroll,
    Hi Michael, you are right. The “worst is when a client leaves without explanation.” Nobody wins that way…neither the client or the business. At least if the client tells us why he hates us, we have a chance to do something about it. But silence gives us nothing to work with.

    [Reply]

    Gaia O'Dea Reply:

    I am an American who lived for a few years in London. I had a friend there who was from South Africa. One evening we were having dinner and discussing how the Englsih in general but Londoners in particular are about the most non-expressive people on this planet.

    We were laughing about how it is exceedingly rare when Londoners go out for a meal and when the waiter/waitress asked them how their dinner was inevitably the response will be “Lovely.”

    The thing is it does not matter if the food was the very best they ever had or the very worst they ever had or somewhere in the middle the response will be the same…”lovely.”

    No complaints or compliments…really no feedback at all. If the dinner was at least average then the customers will probably return if it was awful they simply won’t return to that restaurant but as i said virtually never will you hear a Londoner complain about a bad meal or really about much of anything. You just never know and they are so introverted culturally that even if some man’s wife was raped his three children murdered his house burned down he got fired and his dog died…when they interview this guy on the evening news he is more likely than not to respond by yawning and at most sharing he is a bit annoyed. lol.

    I agree that no one likes a complainer but then it can be taken to the opposite extreme which to me is equally irritating.

    [Reply]

  2. Steve Carney says:

    Ken – excellent point! The complainer is asking for your help. It is an opportunity to show that your company cares and that you are the superior provider. Customer retention is the key to sales stability.

    Thanks for the reminder to respond with concern.

    Steve

    [Reply]

    Ken Varga Reply:

    @Steve Carney,
    Hi Steve, you are welcome! And, yes, customer retention is the key.

    [Reply]

  3. Terry Campbell says:

    Someone complained years ago that the horse & buggy was bad. Thus the auto was invented. The car was too hot so air condition was invented,music would be nice so the car radio came about. Thank goodness management wasn’t thereto hear the complaints. Anyone who complains about complainers is more interested in staying the same & protecting their jobs Etc.Preventing improvements in any organization.

    [Reply]

    Ken Varga Reply:

    @Terry Campbell,
    Hi Terry, well said!

    [Reply]

  4. Ken- meaningful 4 step process that will give any business a way and a reason to approach complaints as the opportunities they really are! Thanks for sharing your common sense wisdom!

    [Reply]

    Ken Varga Reply:

    @Bruce G. Clinton,
    Hi Bruce, you are welcome!

    [Reply]

  5. Marj Blankenship says:

    Great insite! For those of us who have listening skills (selling) this type of feedback can give your company just the right information to set you a part from the majority of others. Before pretending that you know what the customer wants or needs ask for their major complaints about other Companies that may provide the same sertvices that your company provides. Learn to build your business on the needs of your customers..if your clients did not complain to you about their needs, they wouldn’t have the needs or you just haven’t been communicating with them closely enough to realize what they are.
    Don’t just let them complain listen and do something about their valuable complaints

    [Reply]

    Ken Varga Reply:

    @Marj Blankenship,
    Hi Marj, thanks for adding your slant to the topic. Useful.

    [Reply]

  6. Mo Bailey says:

    Bravo! Like in the advertising world (% varies with medium), for every one comment you hear, consider there are at least 10 that say nothing. While considering the source has merit, we must also take responsibility of being “a source” for those we strive to serve. Thanks Ken – you state this so well!

    [Reply]

    Ken Varga Reply:

    @Mo Bailey,
    Hi Mo! Yes, if we consider that the one complaint represents 10 unspoken ones, that brings home the importance of taking that complaint seriously. Thanks.

    [Reply]

  7. Exactly what I remember attending a seminar in the 1980′s and being told this. It still beggers belief that so many people actively avoid discussing problems that customer experience directly with them.

    If all you listen to is positive feedback you simply get complacant and don’t progress your business. As Terry says no complaints = no improvements. Great blog Ken

    [Reply]

    Ken Varga Reply:

    @Steve Southwell,
    Hi Steve, thanks.

    [Reply]

  8. Anne Hilbert says:

    Good point Ken. Nobody likes to get a complaint. But you can certainly make lemonade out of lemons using your philosophy. If one person took the time to make the complaint, there are probably other customers thinking the same thing & will be happy when you fix the problem.

    [Reply]

    Ken Varga Reply:

    @Anne Hilbert,
    Hi Anne, we’ve been trained since we were kids to avoid complaints. Complaints usually meant that a scolding or spanking would follow. So we have been conditioned that its bad. But as adults we have discovered that there is opportunity on the other side of the complaint.

    [Reply]

  9. I agree in principle that as a business person how you deal with complaints can be a make or break you moment. Not all businesses deal with complaints effectively…either because they have not empowered their employees to do it or they have not developed strategies to handle complainers.
    As a consumer I have had good and bad responses to complaints by businesses. One recent situation was handled but to be honest, they gave me nothing for my troubles so even though the person from PR who finally got back to me was very polite and nice, offering lots of apologies, they did nothing to compensate me for my inconvenience so I would still not use this company nor recommend it to others.
    We must turn those situations into win/win outcomes….be prepared!

    [Reply]

    Ken Varga Reply:

    @Sandy Chernoff,
    Hi Sandy, great advice!

    [Reply]

  10. Amina says:

    Very true Ken. I’m a complainer and it makes a huge difference if you expect a certain level of service.

    I first complain and if no action is taken to correct the problem then I have no guilt moving to another service provider.
    At least the old provider will know why I moved.

    [Reply]

    Ken Varga Reply:

    @Amina,
    Hi Amina, I think as a consumer we should do our part to help the business be better when we can. This means letting management know what went wrong so they have an opportunity to fix it. Especially if it’s a local store, I want to help keep them in business.

    [Reply]

  11. Asha says:

    Hi Ken,

    As a provider of services, its very hard to know whether our existing clients are satisfied or not. Making sure that the product/service is of quality is the first and foremost factor.

    Yes what you mentioned is right. I have seen clients that go silent after some time. I’m also curious to know what went wrong, so as to avoid it the next time. But getting a second chance to rectify your errors are less.

    The best way is to make sure that what the client has asked for is what we provide.

    Regards,
    Asha

    [Reply]

    Ken Varga Reply:

    @Asha,
    Hi Asha, one way to find out how clients are feeling is to call them up a couple or so weeks after a sale and see how the product or service is working for them.

    [Reply]

  12. Deena Neste says:

    A brilliant reminder that opportunities sometimes knock in the strangest ways. I would like to add that for me, turning a complaint into a win can be more satisfying than just making customers happy with our product.

    [Reply]

    Ken Varga Reply:

    @Deena Neste,
    Hi Deena, I experience joy in that too. So,it not only makes your business better; it’s also fun.

    [Reply]

  13. Ken,

    I really enjoyed this post. It’s a very constructive and positive philosophy, one that should ultimately help you improve your business.

    [Reply]

    Ken Varga Reply:

    @Mary Jo Van Horn,
    Thanks Mary Jo. Good luck to you!

    [Reply]

  14. Aryan says:

    I am the classic consumer complainer- if I’m in a store or shopping online and get poor service, I will be the first to complain to the highest level of management I can find. At the same time, I will compliment good service. The reaction I get? Most of the time I end up speaking to an annoyed lower level customer service “screener” who could care less about my complaint. And you are correct, most of the time I simply walk away from that company forever.

    [Reply]

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