The Key Benefits of Customer Complaints

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published June 8, 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

No matter your industry or the quality of your product, your business can expect to receive at least a few complaints. Complaints, while not pleasant to hear, can represent significant opportunities to improve your organization. If you're interested in learning how you can use feedback that might first seem negative to grow your business, you can benefit from learning about the types of complaints and their potential upsides. In this article, we review the ways customers voice their complaints and then identify several benefits you and your business can enjoy if you handle them properly.

Related: FAQ: Is the Customer Always Right?

What are customer complaints?

Customer complaints are expressions of dissatisfaction that patrons of your business share with an employee, a manager or on a public forum, such as a business review site. Sometimes, customer complaints reflect fair criticisms of the way your business operates or the products it sells. Other times, a customer's disposition or habits may affect how they respond to interacting with your company. In both cases, however, it's important that you listen to and consider what your clients are saying. Doing so is the best way to improve the situation and find potential improvements quickly.

Types of customer complaints

Here are several common types of customer complaints:

Product complaints

Product complaints occur when customers experience frustrations with their purchases and want your help resolving them. The nature of product complaints can vary widely depending on your business model, but they often involve malfunctions or operational issues. If a product is simply faulty, your company likely needs to issue a refund or replace it. If the customer is struggling to work or understand your product, answering questions and providing guidance can often solve the issue.

Product issues are common in that every company can expect an occasional instance of breakage or technical difficulty. However, when particular product issues seem frequent, they might signal that your company needs to evaluate why they're recurring and take action to fix them.

Related: 20 Customer Service Tips

Customer service complaints

Customer service complaints arise when a client has an unpleasant or unsuccessful interaction with a member of your organization. While the complaint might involve an actual customer service representative, it could also involve a sales representative, administrator or any employee who interacts with the public and clients. Usually, customers making these complaints feel as though your company hasn't appreciated their business or that your employee didn't treat them well. If your clients have to wait to receive assistance, they also might complain about the speed of your customer service.

You might benefit from documenting these complaints. Recording the employee or other source of your customer service issues can help identify the best remedy. In some cases, you might speak with the team member who's the subject of the complaint, or you might decide to reconsider how you provide customer service.

Value complaints

Value complaints happen when customers feel your product doesn't justify its price. These complaints describe most instances where a customer begins their complaint by mentioning the price or effort they invested in your services and concludes by emphasizing their disappointment with the results. For instance, students who take courses with an online education company could complain that its curriculum is too limited for the price, or, conversely, they could complain the curriculum was long and challenging but didn't enhance their professional life.

Value complaints are important to consider carefully so your company can learn whether it needs to adjust its product or better manage customers' expectations. For instance, the online education company might not be able to lower the price of its courses because of the salaries it pays its instructors. It's critical that the company understands whether it should eliminate the course offering in the future or change its marketing approach to avoid misleading customers.

New customer complaints

New customer complaints are situations where people purchasing your product for the first time feel disappointed and share their first impressions with you. Often, these complaints are actually comparison complaints. The new customer is comparing their experience either to what you advertised or to what they experience when buying from your competitors. Some new customers might genuinely not enjoy your specific offering, or their first exposure to it might have been flawed. For instance, a new customer staying at a boutique hotel truly might not enjoy the decor, or they could have arrived while you were upgrading the lobby.

New customer complaints, especially when made publicly, might convince shoppers that your business favors regulars at the expense of first-time patrons. It's therefore important that you find the reason for each new customer complaint and do your best to address it.

Read more: 9 Tips for Onboarding Customers

Repeat customer complaints

Repeat customer complaints are the complaints you receive from your regular clients. These complaints can be particularly useful because their causes are often easier to identify. Your business knows that repeat customers usually enjoy and appreciate your services. Therefore, when they do complain, you know something directly related to their experience on this specific occasion went wrong. Since these customers are familiar with your operation, they're uniquely qualified to tell you exactly how or why they encountered a problem.

For many businesses, repeat customers are the key to profitability and long-term success. When they share a complaint, you can often be confident that the customer intends to return, which is why it's important to solve whatever problem arose during the transaction. If the repeat customer gives your company another chance, make sure you follow up to confirm that you made all necessary improvements.

Chronic complaints

Chronic complaints come from customers who share criticisms regularly. Some clients feel it's important to always acknowledge how your business could improve, even if they are regular patrons. If you've established a relationship with clients who chronically complain, it's still important that you take their insights seriously. However, you can recognize that these clients usually aren't changing their estimation of your company. You also might deliberate or wait to see if someone else repeats the same complaint before making any drastic changes.

Benefits of customer complaints

Benefits of thoughtfully responding to customer complaints can include:

Greater customer loyalty

Most customers make complaints respectfully, intending to be honest about their experience of your business so that you can acknowledge their concerns. They often actually have an overall high opinion of your operation and want to continue supporting it. Therefore, when they express displeasure, their primary concern is how your company handles their feedback. Responding well to criticism can leave customers who make complaints feeling impressed with your business and even more appreciative of its professionalism.

Organizations that prioritize addressing complaints can achieve exceptional customer loyalty. Knowing that they can expect an occasional issue with any business, consumers often become very attached to the companies that prove they care about their customers. As more people have positive experiences with your approach to handling complaints, customer service becomes a part of your company's identity and attracts even more people looking for a brand with integrity.

Related: Customer Loyalty vs. Brand Loyalty: What's the Difference?

Identification of legitimate issues

Sometimes complaints can be highly subjective. You may even strongly disagree with some customers' evaluation of your service and with good reason. However, other times, complaints often are direct explanations of why your service or good isn't achieving its full potential and meeting customers' needs. In these cases, it's important you treat customer complaints as valid sources of information that identify what your company could improve.

For instance, if a customer service complaint cites that one function of your product doesn't work as it should, you know exactly what your product development team needs to consider in the future. When you treat concrete and detailed criticism as not just complaints, but as insights, you can view your customers as collaborators who share your interest in making your product the best it can be.

Improved understanding of your processes

Many complaints, instead of pointing out issues with your product, describe subpar experiences. Customers might complain about long wait times, frustrating company policies or confusing information on your website. In each of these instances, complaints improve your understanding of where your business could get your excellent product in more consumers' hands, in less time and with greater overall results.

Often, customer experience rivals product quality as a primary consumer concern. Great products lose much of their value if consumers feel worried about the shopping, purchasing and support processes they can expect with a company. If you use complaints to meaningfully change how you meet these essential consumer needs, you can expect customers to recognize how their experiences improve each time they shop with you.

Meaningful consumer and market information

Companies invest significant time and money surveying consumers, hoping to understand their wants, needs and ideas of value. Often, complaints provide exactly this information, enabling you to identify meaningful trends or consumer sentiments. For instance, if you begin receiving more frequent value complaints about your prices being too high, your company benefits from understanding why. Perhaps your competitors have lowered prices, or maybe a new company offers the same services you do while including other features for the same cost to the consumer.

Instead of searching for your target audience, customer complaints come directly from it. They tell you precisely how people who already know about and shop your product compare it to rivals' offerings. This incredibly valuable information can guide your business's strategy in the short and long term.

Opportunities for employee growth

Every complaint ultimately relates to some aspect of your employees' performances. Customer service complaints identify how your representatives could make people feel more appreciated and welcomed. Product quality complaints explain how your product development team could execute designs more thoughtfully. Just as managers regularly offer feedback, your consumers also are excellent sources of productive criticism that's often the most valuable criticism available. Their complaints are free of the uncertainty that businesses usually navigate when building goods and services. Customers express exactly how your team can do its job better.

Consider organizing complaints by the individual or department they mention. Look for recurring descriptions that suggest an issue is especially pressing and see if you agree with them. You can take complaints, regardless of how customers originally expressed them, and turn them into constructive tools that help your employees grow. If you can boost more of your employees' performance more frequently, your entire organization benefits.

Related: The Differences Between Customer Relations vs. Customer Service

Better online reputation

Increasingly, complaints surface on review sites or social media. While it may seem troubling when the public can view the dissatisfaction of a single customer, keep in mind that consumers are used to seeing businesses receive a few complaints. What's important is that you prove your company is responsive and wants to make its clientele happy. Acknowledging complaints by expressing your regret for any negative experiences gives other consumers confidence that they can feel comfortable trying your service. In your response, emphasize your desire to help improve the situation.

After responding publicly, be sure to respond privately as well. This avoids any possibility of a lengthier discussion overshadowing your initial reply. Usually you can find a solution to the issue and, on top of securing a positive public reputation, develop a better reputation with the concerned individual, as well.

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