When Customers Do Not Complain

“91% of customers don’t always complain when they receive poor customer service, with over 40% of them thinking it is not worth complaining as companies simply don’t care.” – report by Rapide

There was a time when the fact that customers do not complain would have been a good thing – not anymore. With so many options and choices, customers do not need to spend time complaining, which would be a kind of feedback, to companies. They would much rather switch to another company and get what they want. Companies constantly need to make their customer service processes simpler but also must address the most basic issues that could upset customers, and about which they may never complain. These experiences are the ones that drive them away to other companies, or compel them to reduce the amount of spending on a company or stop endorsing the products and services with others.

The fact is that most companies do not view customer complaints as opportunities, and ‘rejoice’ when customers do not complain, believing that all that the company is doing must be right. Customer complaints are valuable feedback and provide a company with information they need to improve and become better. Complaining customers are actually giving the company a chance to retain them – rather than defecting to another company, and this is something for which any company must be extremely thankful. We know that it is far easier to retain customers than attracting new ones. When customers do not complain, a company is unable to discover minor service lapses, which could potentially become large and unmanageable ones if left undetected. Customer complaints are those early warning signs that can prevent a company from driving itself into oblivion – every company needs these ‘signs’.

The biggest mistake that companies make is to assume that they have a sound grasp on issues and that they would be providing the best service possible to their customers. Despite call centres, social media pages, strong sales and marketing teams – all responsible for directly interacting with customers, companies may not actually be ‘listening’ to what really matters to customers. The harsh reality is that the issues that customers do not complain about are the ones that would have the greatest impact on their loyalty and profitability, and could lead customers to leave a company – silently. Customer silence is the biggest killer for any company – it causes the biggest dent to the profits of a company and is the main reason for a company’s low customer retention rate. Customer facing teams are usually so caught up in tackling the ‘apparent’ and ‘major’ issues, that they lose sight of the silent problematic experiences that customers do not complain about, but would be most miffed about – enough to leave.

The double whammy for companies is that while they must comply with the customer demand of simplification, they forget to focus on the seemingly minor issues that could potentially kill the business. This becomes even more challenging since research proves that only 50% customers complain (an average figure depending on the industry), of which 90% complaints are against customer service representatives. This effectively means that companies are not faring as well on customer service as they believe, or would like others to believe. The scary part however, is that there are 50% customers that do not complain – the issues are usually the most frequent and therefore, potentially the most damaging for a company. In the past we had written about ‘silent’ customers – the ones that do not complain, instead they switch to another without letting the company know why. Not only do they take their business to a competitor, they would let everyone know (and very often via social media) that the company metes out poor service and does not care for its customers. Before the company even gets to know about the damaging feedback, it would have lost precious time causing some serious harm to the bottom line and reputation.

While it is a matter of concern for companies when customers do not complain, they must also not sit back and wait for the complaints to happen. It would be better to get proactive and identify the ‘silent’ issues that never get reported, but are usually the reasons that customers would deflect and or spread the negative word, ‘killing’ the business in several different ways. There are several main reasons that these ‘killer issues’ go undetected, and the prime being that a company makes it extremely hard for customers to complain / put across an issue. Instead of making the effort to complain directly to the company, they then use social media platforms to ‘get the word out’ – they need to vent, hence if a company makes them feel like they are in for a ‘punishment’ when they complain, customers would use other means available to them.

The next main reason why customers do not complain, is that even if they manage to complain, the company takes little or no notice of the issue (or may have done that in the past), leading to distrust and no confidence on the part of customers. Obviously then, if customers do not believe that someone is listening, and will help they will not complain to the company – they would go to a company that would care. Some other customers may not complain since they would believe either that the relationship with the company would become strained, or that the company would penalize them in some way for complaining. Why would customers stay with a company that made them so uncomfortable and so unwelcome? There could be several other reasons due to which customers do not complain, and it is the responsibility of each company to figure out and eliminate these reasons – for their own success.

Customers are rich repository of knowledge and information, and would be willing to part with it if a company seems open to receiving it. In order to gain from customers, even by way of complaints, a company must make it easy and simple for customers to complain. They must take the time to interact with customers who may seem ‘awfully quiet’ and never complain – these customers could be harbouring resentment that could manifest itself in several different negative ways. Provide several different avenues through which the customers could voice their opinions, and ensure that they receive speedy and efficient responses each time, and solutions that they would find appropriate. Staying available for them, especially for customers that do not complain, is a great way to build rapport and trust, such that customers would be happy to provide feedback.

The leadership of a company must make it a ‘habit’ to connect with the leaders of their customer companies to check back with them on what they believe the company does well and what needs to be improved. Being proactive and direct while approaching customers makes it easier for them to like and trust a company. It may not easy to do – in fact is a process that requires dedication, discipline, and an intense desire to keep customers happy, and in the bargain discover why customers do not complain and do away with the ‘silent killer issues’ before they irreparably damage the company.

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