Cherish customer complaints, they make you stronger


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In order to keep things light and entertaining, I thought I’d open up with a quote from Friederich Nietszche:

“it is impossible to suffer without making someone pay for it; every complaint already contains revenge”

It is in my nature to forgive and forget, but sometimes things can fester, things like a bad customer experience, and if I am on the receiving end of a bad customer experience, the likelihood is that I will probably tell someone. Statistics would suggest that I am more than twice as likely to tell someone about a bad customer experience than I am to tell them about a positive experience.

A consumer’s impulse is to punish bad service. In the Harvard Business Review article, entitled Stop Trying to Delight your Customers from June 2010 in which 75,000 customers, from the B2B and B2C environment were examined, research found that

25% of customers are likely to say something positive about their customer experience

65% are likely to speak negatively

23% of customers who had a positive service interaction told 10 or more people

48% who had a negative experience told 10 or more people

In exacting revenge, if a customer goes out of their way to make a complaint, they are in fact doing you a favour, and customers that take the time out to relay information regarding their dissatisfaction should be cherished.

A typical business only hears from 4% of customers that are unhappy with the service, the other 96% leave, 91% leave for good.  The nuggets of information that you gain from that 4% are highly valuable. Take on board their complaint and obviously do your best to retain that customer.

If a customer goes out of the way to make a complaint, they are often giving you a chance for redemption. If they stay on board, make sure to check how you measure up on the same experience at a later stage.

The old adage “what gets measured gets done” is not just an encouragement; it’s also a warning: If you don’t measure your experience with these customers, it could land you in some pain, and if this happens over a meaningful time horizon, you will also undermine your organization’s commitment to achieving any goals set. This holds true in particular for customer complaints and you need to have a fully integrated system to ensure these complaints are properly monitored.

I don’t know who came up with the expression sticks and stones will may break my bones….but if an irate customer starts calling you names after a bad experience, take it on the chin, they are probably teaching you a well earned lesson, after all, as our old friend Nietszche said: That which does not kill us makes us stronger.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

David Heneghan
David founded CX Index to help businesses leverage feedback to make more profitable decisions. Through our software platfrom we conduct sophisticated data analysis to help businesses drive more porfitable customer centric decisions. @cxindex


  1. “48% who had a negative experience told 10 or more people.”

    Negative publicity propagates much faster than positive comments. Tending to customer’s complaint is best, a company can do to sort out its own short comings.


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