dissatisfied customers

By Laurie Morrow, Vice President, Research Strategy

Have you ever been so pleased with an experience in a store, restaurant or other establishment you do business with, that you went out of your way to tell the management how delighted you were with the experience?

No. Neither have I. Most of the time, I’m just too busy.

On the flip side, have you ever been so dissatisfied with rude customer service, poor product quality or had an overall bad experience that you asked to speak to a manager, called their corporate office or written their corporate headquarters to complain?

On occasion, I have taken the time to express my dissatisfaction to management; but more often than not, I’ve kept it to myself instead of letting that company or manager know. Sometimes I may give them a second chance, giving them the benefit of the doubt that my next experience will be better; however,  other times I just stop doing business with the company altogether.

If this sounds familiar to you, we are what companies should fear most, the silent customer. Recent studies show 96 percent of customers will not complain, and 91 percent will simply never return.

The Threat

dissatisfied customerWhile silent customers don’t complain to management, they most certainly will share their experiences with their friends, neighbors and co-workers. A customer who is dissatisfied will tell between 9-15 people about their experience, with over one in ten telling 20 people about their bad experience.

The impact of negative word-of-mouth can be more devastating than ever as online and social tools that amplify word-of-mouth are increasingly more powerful. Seventy-six percent of consumers are using online reviews before determining which business to use, and over 1 million people view tweets about customer service every week and roughly 80 percent of those tweets are negative.

A negative review could be devastating in today’s viral world of social media.

What Can You Do?

Whatever your customer base, whether it is families, Fortune 500 firms or federal agencies, all businesses need to remember customer feedback is a gift. Hearing about a complaint or bad experience gives you the chance to right a wrong. It provides an opportunity to improve. Learning about small problems your customers are having can also help them from snowballing into a larger issue that can threaten their continued loyalty. On the flip side, hearing about what you are doing right can help you duplicate those activities, ensuring continued positive customer experiences.

Outreach efforts such as customer satisfaction surveys are a great way to identify those silent customers that might go unnoticed. While some may continue to remain silent, providing a mechanism for customers to give honest feedback is a good first step at identifying shortcomings that will ultimately lead to process improvement, increased customer satisfaction, and customer retention.

Interested in learning more? Read about the top three activities ensuring customer satisfaction.

Need help developing a customer satisfaction program? Contact Aaron Heffron, Market Connections president at aaronh@marketconnectionsinc.com.


Let’s face it,?? all companies experience an unhappy customer from time to time. Often such issues are revealed in formal customer satisfaction surveys. Other times, customers express their dissatisfaction directly (or subtly) to the company. Regardless, it’s likely the situation calls for a conversation between the customer and the account manager or a more senior member of management. The following tips will help your front-line representative bring the problem to a successful resolution:

Deal with an issue as soon as possible: Immediately address the dissatisfaction with the customer so the issue doesn’t fester into a more serious problem,?? even if you only sense something might be wrong.

Listen intently and show respect for your customer’s opinion:
Whether the customer’s dissatisfaction is justified or not, it’s important to express empathy. You are not agreeing or disagreeing with the complaint itself, but rather listening with concern and acknowledging their opinion. This helps diffuse their frustration or anger.

Summarize the situation to show your understanding: Once the customer has finished expressing the problem, briefly and specifically re-state the main points using some of the customer’s exact words. Give the customer a chance to correct or add to your summary.

If you are wrong, admit it,?? and apologize: If you or someone at your company has made a mistake, don’t hesitate to admit and apologize for it. Often times a client will feel much better simply after receiving a sincere apology. Avoid over-explaining why the mistake happened,?? very few excuses are acceptable to a customer who is depending on you.

If a customer has made a mistake, be very careful about calling attention to it: It’s seldom a good idea to directly tell a customer he or she is wrong. If it’s important to talk about the customer’s mistake in order to resolve the situation, begin with a phrase like: “I just want to make sure we work out all the steps in the process so this doesn’t happen again.”

Develop a plan to meet the customer’s expectations,?? jointly if possible:
Establish a healthy dialogue with your customer as you work together to resolve the issue. This will help you effectively resolve future issues that may arise.

Agree on next steps and set a follow-up date: By agreeing on what’s going to happen next and when, the customer is assured he or she has been heard.

Regardless of the situation, don’t ever,?? we repeat, ever,?? abandon the customer, interrupt, get defensive or act flip, pass the buck, make promises you can’t keep, respond with anger or emotion, or give cause for further irritation. Any of these behaviors will only make a bad situation worse.

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