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Why do customers complain?

Featured in the Complaint handling for positive outcomes training manual

By Nina Lockwood

Category: Customer Service

Credit price: 3 download credits (Single user)

We are constantly bombarded with advertisements extolling the virtues of doing business with the varied and numerous product and service providers. Even before we arrive at work in the morning, we may have heard radio advertisements, or, if we watch breakfast television, seen any number of advertisements telling us that this soap powder will make our clothes ‘whiter than white’ or that this shower gel will make us feel invigorated and full of vitality for the day ahead. Perhaps we pass billboards on our morning commute to work, which inform us that the ‘new and even-more improved’ product has now arrived. However did we manage before? As a result of all this information, our expectations as customers are higher than ever before. As companies compete for a share of our purse, they regularly tell us how much better they are than the next company. But what happens when they’re not quite as good as they promised they’d be? What happens is that we feel let down, frustrated, angry, upset, disappointed ... the list goes on. Sometimes, the situations demands action — we have to make a complaint! This training activity encourages participants to examine the reasons why customers do complain and to apply this information directly to their own organisation’s products and services. Research tells us that only four per cent of customers actually do make a complaint when their expectations have not been met. So what about the remaining 96 per cent — what do they do? As the training activity progresses, we focus on the many reasons why customers don’t complain and work to find solutions to overcome those reasons and actively encourage more customers to give organisations the opportunity to put things right when they go wrong. This training activity further focuses participants on the fact that it is people and not processes that determine how customers feel about doing business with different organisations. Participants are encouraged to take responsibility for their behaviour when dealing with complaints and to make a personal commitment to make a difference back at the workplace. You are now building upon the mindset shift, from complaints being negative and people being ‘blamed’ for doing things wrong, to looking at the positive elements of encouraging complaints both as a customer and a service provider.

To begin this training activity, you encourage consideration of the question, ‘Why do customers complain?’ by focusing on generic issues and encouraging the participants to put themselves in the customer’s shoes. You then highlight the four main categories of complaint and consider real examples from the participants’ organisations, fitting these into four categories. Once you have a list of examples, you ask the group to consider the underlying reasons for these complaints. Are they the tip of the iceberg? What is the customer thinking and feeling at a deeper level? In the next section of the training activity you pose the question, ‘Why don’t customers complain?’ We know that the majority of people who have a reason to complain about a product or a service don’t actually tell the organisation about it. This part of the training activity looks at the reasons for this and begins to examine why we should encourage the ‘silent majority to tell us when things have gone wrong. You conclude the training activity by inviting the participants to focus on their own organisations and to think about what happens at the front line to discourage customer complaints. In essence, participants are considering what ‘people’ factors are involved. If there are already processes in place to encourage complaints, these should be discussed at this point.

Who is it for: This training resource is intended for use by trainers to help participants look at complaints from both sides, focusing on the impact of their own personal attitudes and behaviour on customer loyalty to the organisation, and ultimately on the bottom line profit.

Resource Type:Activity
Min Group Size:6
Max Group Size:12
Typical Duration:03:10:00
No of Pages:25

Resources: View standard resources for Fenman training activities
Additional resources: Envelopes (optional)

Purpose: This training resource is intended for use by trainers with all members of staff, particularly those with customer-facing responsibilities. It enables experienced members of staff to review their personal performance and share their experience, and more recently appointed staff to consider the impact their performance can have on the customer.

Download the training activity, Why do customers complain? as featured in the Fenman training manual; Complaint handling for positive outcomes