Customer Complaints: The Sound of Silence in Corporate Communication

Years ago, one study revealed that customers would rather go to the dentist instead of calling a company’s contact center. Big corporations have now solved that issue by making it virtually impossible to contact them.

A new study sheds light on a significant obstacle: the absence of a contact phone number on the homepage of 85% of Fortune 500 companies and the complete omission of such a number on 23% of their websites. Furthermore, VoiceNation’s customer service data analysis reveals that 33% of the leading Fortune 500 companies are unreachable. According to an International Group study, 76% of customers still prefer phone calls for customer support.  It took the Moneypenny researchers six or seven clicks to find one elsewhere on their websites. This tactic creates overwhelming barriers for consumers, forcing many to seek other means of recourse.

frustrated customer c complaint

Most customers do not want to complain. Besides being uncomfortable doing so, it is considered a waste of time. Now, it appears impossible to do so. One of the few places frustrated consumers have to force companies to respond is the internet. Social media and sites like Yelp have become a stage for airing grievances about customer service, typically when all other avenues have failed and frustration peaks. Companies often only respond to these issues when they gain traction online and spark a collective demand for action, with acknowledgments typically made in a public forum. This reaction underscores the performative and insincere attitude of certain businesses that value customer satisfaction only when it affects their public image.

As more and more companies incorporate artificial intelligence and machine learning, which improves productivity and efficiency, it must be done in collaboration with accessible employees.

Are you getting enough complaints?

Think about the last time you had a disappointing experience as a customer. Did you tell anyone at the company? You left a business feeling frustrated or hung up the phone more stressed than before you called. If you are like most people, you don’t

customer complaining to chatbot

bother to waste your time sharing your displeasure with anyone at the business that disappointed you. Why? Most customers don’t think anyone cares; no one wants to hear about it, or they will think you are trying to get away with something. So why would a Customer wish to waste the time? How often does this play out in your business? Do customers leave unhappy without letting anyone know? If we are not making it easy for our customers to give feedback, then it is happening to us more than we realize. Our customers have better things to do with their time than hunt us down, complain, and then feel that it didn’t make a difference.

*Related –  A Great Customer Loyalty Strategy: Screw Up First

Give permission and make it easy for them to share

There are several ways to permit our customers to communicate with us. Now, I am talking about something other than customer measurement devices that ask customers about their level of satisfaction and how likely they are to refer. While that is vitally important, I am referring to something different. I’m talking about permitting your customers to communicate quickly, in a non-threatening way, and not only enabling them but also asking for their advice and feedback, both positive and negative. Few companies ask their customers for praise and lose the opportunity to celebrate and perpetuate outstanding performance. However, even fewer companies dare to ask their customers for feedback if their experience is below what they expected. It is so simple. It is just marketing to your customer on everything: invoices, orders, emails, at checkout, on the website, and even in restrooms. Here are some examples of what companies have used:

“Please tell us about your experience. We need to know how we are doing.”

“We want your advice on how we can be better.”

“Did we hit the mark today? Tell us. Did we miss it? Tell us, please!”

“Was someone a hero for you today? We want to recognize them.”

“Were we the best part of your day? If you can’t answer yes, we need to know why.”

Is your company Zero Risk?

Zero Risk doesn’t mean your organization never drops the ball. Zero Risk means that when the ball is dropped, your employees handle it appropriately and make it right with the customer. The customer may now be more loyal than they would have been had everything gone as expected. There are four key parts to being a Zero Risk company:

  1. Have a specific response protocol that all employees are trained to use for customer challenges.
  2. Know where your company drops the ball most often.
  3. Have systems & processes in place to reduce issues from happening.
  4. Have a service recovery system and tools that your employees can use to make it right when it does happen.
*Related – How Should CEOs React to Complaints?

Train your Team to Do the LEAST When Dealing with an Upset Customer

Here is a test: Ask five employees what they would do if they encountered an upset Customer (the reason is unimportant). I guarantee you will get five different answers. All your employees must know how to properly react and handle a situation when a customer is inconvenienced and potentially upset. The key is that training needs to be easy to remember, effective, and easy to implement. I have seen dozens of different protocols; my favorite, easy and effective, is L.E.A.S.T.

  • Listen – Give your customer your complete attention. Listen for the real reason the Customer is unhappy. Never interrupt. Keep eye contact and nod as the customer speaks.
  • Empathize – Do your best to relate to your customer’s feelings by putting yourself in their shoes (i.e., disappointed, frustrated).
  • Apologize – Let the customer know how genuinely sorry you are. Never make the customer wrong. Speak softly.
  • Solve – Do your best to solve the problem right there on the spot and make them happy. Take personal responsibility for solving the problem and advocate for the customer. Be 100% positive the Customer is completely satisfied.
  • Thank – Thank the Customer for bringing the issue to your attention and allowing you to make it right. Thank them for their patience and for being a loyal Customer.


Video of the Week: Would your customers pay to have a relationship with you?

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About The Author

John DiJulius

John R. DiJulius is a best-selling author, consultant, keynote speaker and President of The DiJulius Group, the leading Customer experience consulting firm in the nation. He blogs on Customer experience trends and best practices.