Survey: 8 Things That Really Cause Consumers to Complain

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.

In an effort to understand how a business can better minimize the negative impact of consumer complaints and maximize the possible benefit of handling them well, GetFiveStars is conducting a number of consumer surveys to explore this issue.

In this survey question we asked a representative sample of U.S. consumers (n=499) an open ended question.

When dealing with a local merchant, what will cause you to complain?

We then categorized their responses into themes.

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Roughly 20 themes emerged but only 8 really showed any frequency and of those only 2 themes were repeated over and over again.

Customer Service & Employee Behavior Causes The Most Complaints – 57%

Customer service (or a lack there of) and employees behaviors dominated their thoughts and clearly outpaced the other annoyances. This isn’t a surprise and these two are tightly if not completely intertwined.

Service issues represented 34% of the responses and employee attitudes or behavior accounted for 23% of the answers respectively.

Together these two areas together accounted for 57% of the total responses.

Low Product Quality, Speed & High Prices Combined for 21%

Low product quality, speed and high prices together garnered 21% of the mentions. These eight areas collectively accounted for 78% of the answers and obviously provide a framework for a business to start analyzing their processes to reduce the likelihood of these issues occurring.

When dealing with a local merchant, what will cause you to complain?

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Of note to me and something that most businesses should take heed of is that pricing is way down the lists of complaints accounting for a mere 5% of the respondents. In the end, despite the fact that we fear we need to keep lowering our prices to keep our customers happy there are other fish to fry that are of much more importance to consumers.

Unhappy Customers Are Often Quiet & Don’t Return

complaint kept quiet

Most consumers don’t express their complaints and will often just stop frequenting a business when dissatisfied. This in itself is all the more reason to proactively engage your customers in a feedback process.  And yet repeat customers are really the life blood of any business generating significantly more lifetime value and at a lower cost.

Understanding the pain points of your business is needed to outline a path to correction. If a local business can understand the most common areas of consumer pain, they can then work to minimize them.

Start Listening To Your Customers

I spent many years laboring in the trenches of a local bricks and mortar business. And during all that time and with millions of dollars of annual sales and thousands of customers I never once surveyed my customers to understand what we were doing wrong or could be doing better. One of the main reasons that I helped design GetFiveStars the way it is so that other local businesses would not make the same mistake.

Whether you use GetFiveStars or some other method, start asking your customers today. Find out where you might be falling short and fix it.

8 Replies to “Survey: 8 Things That Really Cause Consumers to Complain”

  1. Dave says:

    Thanks for the survey data, Mike. Interesting. The poor service “thing” could come from both employees and employers. When I think of poor service in a restaurant that is normally from employees–it always seems like the front of the house staff….but when I think of a doctor’s office and me having to wait 2 hours while I too have a busy schedule….that comes from the bosses/docs/principals. That could also fall in the too long lines category…but from my perspective its a form of arrogance.

    Anyway that 57% is really about training…and training is difficult for smb’s but doable and valuable–really valuable–just take it back to your initial concepts–losing an existing customer is horribly expensive and costly. The 8% about being too slow and long lines…oooh…sometimes that is a tough one….at times an smb is under a customer crush and is understaffed. If it happens all the time in an smb…its a major problem but staff up and/or make your people better more efficient.

    Anyway valuable survey and information. Thanks.

    1. Mike Blumenthal says:

      I absolutely agree that it could come from multiple directions; it could be management attitude, it could be management driven process or it could be employees… generally speaking it seemed from the tone of the open ended answers that much of the service issues were institutional not personal but that data didn’t dig that deep.

      Absolutely concur (llok at me, agreeing with you 🙂 its about training. But it is also about feedback and asking if the situation is improving…

  2. Dave says:

    ….and here I’ll agree with you!!! 😀 (yikes)

    Absolutely get the feedback. That is how an smb learns, and also gets direction on where to make improvements. If the complaints are repetitive in nature and the issue is institutional …there is your guide to making changes. If the complaints are repetitive and about customer service misses and attitude or similar issues than training is the possible antidote.

    Just an observation on these issues, more from reviews than from complaints. I noticed with some restaurants in my region, more than one all owned by the same person, (somebody with a long history of restaurants, and ownership (or partnership of many) that his recently opened restaurants were getting the same kinds of review comments wherein the negatives were always about staff.

    Surprised me with the first new restaurant as this operator has enough restaurants that he has to understand training and hiring. Customer service complaints on the first new restaurant finally started to subside but they haven’t gone away. Next new restaurant opens and the customer service complaints again were and are plentiful. I would have thought he’d have gotten “it”. But he hasn’t.

    The feedback is critical. You really need to keep an open ear to it.

    1. Mike Blumenthal says:

      I have a restaurant that I occasionally consult with and they too mostly get bad reviews around wait staff doing dumb things (pouring water into a glass of bourbon, being inattentive etc) that are the main source of criticism in their reviews which are otherwise stellar. Its almost as if the wait staff is an after thought. If the restaurant wants to do anything more than serve bar snacks, they have to realize that besides their food, th front line staff is the key to success.

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