Complaints Are Opportunities

When customers complain, they are giving you a second chance to keep them. Learn how to not miss out on this opportunity.

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How many times have you heard your snow industry peers spout off: “I hate complaining customers. They’re annoying whiners who are looking to get something free. I wish they would just go away.”

In fact, that’s how many business owners, executives, managers, and employees – and not exclusive to snow and ice management professionals – view clients who lodge complaints about the products or professional services they receive from contractors, vendors, or service providers.

However, have you ever considered there’s an upside to customers who complain?

When customers complain, they are giving you an opportunity to do better – to be better – by pointing out deficiencies in your operations. In the process, they are providing you with data you can use to identify areas with issues that need to be addressed.

Complaint Department

If you receive few complaints, that doesn’t necessarily mean you provide flawless service. Actually, it might mean clients who have experienced problems with your products or service chose to do business elsewhere. Research studies show that, because of poor customer experiences, 50 percent of clients switch companies to pursue services or products elsewhere. Studies also show that 95 percent of customers who have had a bad experience do not complain. Instead, they simply leave and find a new provider.

Defecting customers have a major impact on your bottom line. A 5 percent reduction rate can increase your profits by 5 to 95 percent. That is due in large part to the fact that it can cost five times more to attract new customers than it does to retain current customers.

Are You Listening?

Research indicates complaining customers are overwhelmingly loyal and sincere. They want to continue doing business with you if you set things right. The first step you must take is to make complaining easy.

Many companies solicit complaints through surveys – which can be costly and time consuming to do correctly – but then do nothing with the results. Instead of using that feedback to develop strategies and establish a plan of action to prevent similar complaints in the future, they often let it lie dormant in a computer file. When not used to their fullest, surveys are a waste of your time and money.

Preventive Measures

Complaint prevention is the foundation of quality service for any business, whether you provide a service like snow and ice management or you’re a manufacturer or vendor. When a company’s leadership or management teams fail to recognize complaints as opportunities, then employees and frontline workers follow suit, more often choosing to rather run and hide rather han deal with a difficult situation or an irate client.

Therefore, you must train employees in the techniques of dealing with complaints, whether it is in person, on the phone, or by email. When they do so quickly and to the customer’s satisfaction, it is magic because your retention and referral rates increase and your service improves exponentially.

When customers complain, they are giving you a second chance to keep them – and their money – coming back to you. Remember, getting new customers is an expensive task. Therefore, retaining them should be one of your company’s top priorities – from the ownership on down to the employee manning a shovel on a sidewalks crew. When customers complain, thank them, resolve their issues, and use the information they provide to improve what you do and how you do it.

A frequent Snow Magazine contributor, John Tschohl is the founder and president of the Service Quality Institute – the global leader in customer service – with operations in more than 40 countries. For more info, visit

October 2022
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