Customer complaints are a gift: Collect as many as you can

One Monday morning Jeff came to work, preparing for a new week on the phone and helping customers. His day way rudely interrupted when his manager summoned him and scolded Jeff about a customer complaint that had come to his attention. Jeff went back to his workstation, angry and disenchanted: “bloody customers!”

The ultimate aim of any organisation is to create gains for shareholders by providing value to customers. To be able to achieve this purpose it is imperative that a business understands customers. It is impossible always to keep every single customer satisfied, and complaints are an inevitable outcome of trying to help people.

The customer is always right about their own perception of the value they receive.

On the bright side, complaints are a source of information that is not always fully appreciated by managers. The customer is always right about their perception of the value they receive and a complaint provides a great insight into how customers perceive what you do. In many organisations, the number of complaints is seen as a negative indicator. When a customer lodges a formal expression of dissatisfaction, managers run around in blind panic and try to found out who is to blame for this negative experience.

McDonald’s seemed to have grasped that complaints are a gift and created this beautiful pieces of advertising.

Customer complaints are a gift

McDonald’s are not the only fast food company performing a mea culpa on television. Also pizza purveyor Domino’s recently admitted having changed its recipe after customer feedback. Patrick Doyle, president of Dominoes, summarised their journey succinctly: “You can either use negative comments to get you down, or you can use them to excite and energise you”.

The moral of this story is to embrace customer complaints.If a customer complaints about a fly in the soup, perhaps it is actually a crouton. A lucid manager leaves emotions out of the equation and rationally analyses every complaint and seeks ways to improve the organisation without finger pointing and enabling your staff to help their customers. Follow Ian’s Five Steps of Complaint Management.

2 thoughts on “Customer complaints are a gift: Collect as many as you can

  1. Peter, while I’m happy to accept the customer service recover paradox – that giving complainers special care will increase sales from those patrons… the hard-hearted cynic in me says that the McDonalds advertisement is spin, spin, spin.

    Who says their new recipe is smoother and how as this been objectively measured? Perhaps they changed to a cheaper supplier and are dressing up the flavour change as an improvement.

    Of course they retrain their barristas – Gen Y teens with the attention span of a gnat would need constant reprogramming. They never look as though they are enjoying their duties when I see them in Maccas. Training on how to smile might help – but I’m sure you’ve touched on emotional labour before.

    What the advt is really trying to sell is a satisfaction guarantee. They’re not the first company to offer that. But what percentage of customers complain when they get a distasteful coffee anyway? It’s a bit hard if you’ve taken it away.

    For from being a mea culpa (mea cuppa?) I reckon it’s just another angle to get into the minds of consumers.

    For a real mea culpa, I liked the Coca-Cola re-launch of Mother.

  2. Thanks for your cynical reflections Kevin, maybe you have watched too much Gruen Transfer 🙂

    Any advertising campaign that is purely spin will only be able to win customers in the very short term. having said this, there is no such thing as objective measurement of flavour. Research has shown that contextual variable influence the taste experience – type of cup (Krishna & Morrin 2008), background noise and of course brand perception. If you believe it tastes good, it will taste good.

    P.S. The service-recovery paradox requires a separate blog post one day. My favourite services marketing topic.


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