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How Bad Does Customer Service Have to Get Before We Hear About It?


What does it take for a dissatisfied customer to complain? Apparently, a lot, as we know from experience and statistics. We know that the majority of unhappy customers will not complain, at least to the company. Instead, they will leave, not return, and potentially tell friends and family of their poor experience.


I came across an interesting video from CBC news, who put people in a poor customer experience situation to watch what happened. They would then talk to those involved and ask why did they not complain. Take a look:



As I watched, I found it interesting that the only person who complained was the last woman where the associate was unsure how to work the credit card machine, then took a personal phone call. She stayed silent as the associate tried to figure out how to run the transaction, only asking for the store owner after the associate took a personal call.


In the other two scenarios, neither customer complained. In the first instance, the associate portrayed that she was not knowledgeable and unwilling to assist. The customer asked for a different size, and the associate said she wasn’t sure if they had it and then stayed silent. The customer had to suggest that she go look in the back, which she did, but took a long time in doing so. She returned with the incorrect size, so the customer would need to wait again. However, she decided to leave the store.


In the second scenario, it was a bit worse – the associate took a personal phone call and discussed, within earshot of the customers, that customers were being difficult that day. The customers ended up leaving without saying another word.


What did we learn from this piece?


  • It will take a whole lot to happen before a customer will complain.
  • Lack of purchase/leaving is considered a complaint for many. For those who walked out, they felt that leaving without a purchase was complaint enough. But is it really? If this were a true scenario, the associate may not have really noticed customers left, and if they did, could have thought they left simply because they didn’t see anything they were interested in.


Customers don’t like to be seen as “difficult” or “impolite” so it looks like it would take a significant customer service error to warrant a complaint while in the store. While that may seem like a good thing on the surface, it highlights the fact that many customers will leave dissatisfied, but you will never understand the reason for it.


Continual training is important, as is using a program to measure the customer experience, such as mystery shopping. Ensuring a consistently positive experience will keep dissatisfied customers from leaving and never coming back.




Author: Ann Michaels & Associates

Ann Michaels & Associates has been providing customer experience measurement services since 1998. We provide a full range of services to meet the needs of all industries and company sizes, including mystery shopping, customer and employee feedback services, and social media management.

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