Suffering in Silence


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There is an adage that says something like “A happy customer will tell 2 or 3 people, whilst an unhappy one will tell 10”. Now I’ve heard many variations of this phrase, but the general view seems to be that unhappy customers are more vocal than satisfied ones.

pHc conducted some research in the UK with purchasers of new homes and asked them, at various stages of the purchase process (prior to moving into their new home), to state whether they were satisfied or dissatisfied and whether they were discussing matters with their friends & relatives. The results are shown in the table below –

Happy Customers – telling friends 59%, not telling friends 28%

Unhappy customers – telling friends 6%, not telling friends 7%

What’s interesting to me is that the unhappy customers were equally inclined to keep quiet about their frustrations as they were to tell their friends – which challenges the adage mentioned above. Could it be that they were a little embarrassed? After all, they had chosen the new home, selected the developer and had probably told all their friends about how great things were going to be and how much they were looking forward to moving in. If things then didn’t go so well with the purchase process would it make them appear a little foolish, be a reflection on a poor decision and choice of developer? Effectively are these unhappy buyers who are keeping quiet thinking that their judgment and reputation would be compromised in the eyes of their friends if they were to tell them what was really happening?

The table shows that the happy buyers were telling their friends in a ratio of 2:1 compared to those keeping quiet, which is great news for the developer as this is an excellent way to build brand loyalty and image. Indeed it would be even better if the developer could get the 28% of happy customers who were remaining quiet to talk!!!!

I’m not suggesting that the ‘old adage’ is wrong, but our evidence indicates that it may not apply to all products and all industries. Maybe it is linked to the emotional investment by the purchaser?

I would really appreciate any thoughts and ideas as to what may be happening with these unhappy buyers.

Philip Hogg
Passionate about customer experience management, word-of-mouth and integrating new channels of feedback.


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