SURVEY: What Happens When Things Go South? You Lose More Customers Than You Ever Know

In June, Mike Blumenthal takes a deep look at customer complaints with a series of articles.  View all of the posts covering strategy, ideas, customer insight, survey data and more to improve how your business handles customer complaints.

What happens when customers experience problems dealing with your company and when things go wrong? What customer behaviors can you expect when things just don’t go right and the customer leaves dissatisfied?

customer complaint silence

You would hope that most customers would speak up and communicate the problems that they experienced. Unfortunately that’s not what happens. Most of them will just remain quiet, you never know of their problems or dissatisfaction and they just stop doing business with you. Or worse.

Their bad customer experience is a secret to you, the business, the one who should know about it over anyone else.

The Bulk Of Unhappy Customers Are Silent

Some writers have suggested that as few as  4% of unhappy customers will speak up and that 90% of the disaffected will abandon you and your business without a word. Our recent research isn’t quite as stark as that. But our survey still showed that only about 1/3 of your unhappy customers will actually offer up a complaint of their own volition.

Regardless, it’s a definitive minority that will ever bother to speak up and it leaves 2/3, a true silent majority, ready to quit your business or even write a bad review online without you ever knowing.

unhappy customers

Fortunately ~24% of your unhappy customers do in fact return, perhaps grudgingly, without detailing the complaint. They apparently are willing to give you another try and you have another chance to make them happy.

But over 40% of those who had a bad experience just never come back to your business again and never tell you directly what went wrong.  They are just gone. And, unfortunately,  as many as 1 in 8 (another 12.6%) of these unhappy customers say that they will not just abandon your business but will also head off and write you a bad review.

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These are dark numbers that demonstrate how easy it is to lose customers and garner a bad review in the process. And depending on the lifetime value of your customers this can really impact your future growth prospects as not only will the bad review be visible to the world but each of the unhappy customers is likely to directly tell somewhere between 9 and 15 people of their bad experience.

Customer Complaints Give You A Chance, Silence Does Not

But there is some good news in the complaint arena. Surfacing these silent dissatisfied customers and bringing them to light can offer huge benefits.

How do you do that? You take the time, one way or another, to find out if your customers are satisfied and whether your company did a good job.  We created GetFiveStars to help businesses ask every customer about their experience, it’s simply that important.

And surprisingly, according to our survey, if you do ask your customers how their experience went, almost all of your unhappy customers will tell you.

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But the real lining in the cloud of complaints is that if you do resolve their complaint the vast majority (74%) are either likely or very likely to continue to do business with you. And in doing so these “happy customers who get their issue resolved tell about 4-6 people about their experience”. They once again can become your “promoters” and share their good outcomes with their friends and family.

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While complaints are never fun, you can see that they can be disastrous if left in the shadows. Its best to uncover them early and resolve them quickly. You will have happier customers, fewer bad reviews, more repeat business and best of all, better word of mouth to keep bringing you new customers.

As I noted earlier in this series: It costs a lot to replace a customer and it costs even more in lost business if their bad review is seen by hundreds or even thousands of readers. 

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About the Author

Mike Blumenthal
With unmatched industry expertise and knowledge, Mike is a co-founder and serves as GetFiveStar’s Chief Review Officer helping our customers get the most of the platform. Mike is widely cited as the foremost Local Search expert in North America and affectionately known among his colleagues as ‘Professor Maps’.

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