Why I love Complaining Customers (& why you should too)!

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All right everybody, raise your hand and repeat after me…

“I love complaining customers!”

Oh, wait a minute; do I detect a note of insincerity in your voice?

Probably so, because hardly anybody likes to deal with complaining customers.

But I want to challenge you to look upon them as a gift– complaints are your customers telling you what they want.

And, as you know, it is getting more and more difficult to get customers to tell you what they like and don’t like about your business.

They just don’t want to take the time. Unless service is really terrible, in that case they will probably blast you on all possible social media channels.



So complaints are often one of the few ways that you can really learn from your customers.

There are many things you will find out when you listen to complaints.

Obviously, you will learn where employees are not being very customer friendly.

 I recently worked with a physician’s office to help improve their customer service.

One of the things we found out from listening to complaints was that one nurse was offending patients.

In fact, one of the patients called her “Nurse Nasty!”  Through coaching of that nurse, we were able to change the situation.

When you listen to complaints you may learn about equipment that isn’t working properly.


I visited a restaurant recently where all the silverware and glassware was dirty. When I complained, the owner apologized, thanked me for telling him and came back later to tell me that their dishwasher had just broken down and they didn’t realize it.

You will learn about “expectation gaps” of your service.

A mortgage broker told me about a Realtor who complained that her customers told her that a she never returned their calls.  Well, it turns out that the mortgage banker’s assistant was returning the calls but somehow the customers’ perceptions were that the calls were not really being returned.

So now the assistant says, “Andrea has asked me to return your call to see if I could help you. We didn’t want you to wait while Andrea was in a meeting.”

 Then at the end of the call, she asks, “Have I answered all your questions or does Andrea still need to call you?”

This simple change in handling calls helped solve the problem.

But they never would have known there was a problem unless a customer had complained.

Customer’s ideas are often disguised as complaints.

Customers will give you great ideas for future products and services.

Fed Ex often heard customers complain that they didn’t want to pay the premium price for overnight when all they needed was for it to get there in two days. So Fed Ex listened and introduced a new form of service called “Economy Overnight” which has developed into a major source of revenue for the company.

(Related: Free Download: Dealing with Criticism )


Complaining customers should be your most-wanted customers.

(yep, you read that right!)


When they take the time to complain it means they care enough about you to want to make things better so they can continue to do business with you.

And when a customer has a complaint and you solve the problem to her satisfaction, you’ve won that customer’s loyalty.  What sticks in the customer’s mind is the satisfying outcome of the complaint, not the incident that triggered it. In fact, they will often refer you to others.

The businesses that will succeed in the future are those businesses who are able to give their customers what they need the way they need it.

Listening to complaints is one way to learn what your customers need—a most valuable way.


To learn more tips you can use to keep your customers, check out our Customer Service workbook available for download from our site.


trevina broussard head shotAbout Trevina Broussard

I share powerful Customer Service tips and insights for front line managers and employees on how to deliver customer service to keep your customer coming back. The name of the game is customer loyalty and it’s not just about satisfaction. It’s about a willingness to be a repeat buyer, willingness to recommend you to others, and resistance to switching to a competitor. Fortunately, I learned this lesson through my 15-year corporate career. Poor service is an all-too-frequent experience for us all. I provide a framework for implementing ongoing processes that can build customer loyalty.

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