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Telling Customers NOT to Complain

Posted by on in Customer Service
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Complaint handling that discourages customers from speaking up includes all or some ofthese reactions:

  • apologies and nothing more
  • rejection
  • promises that aren't delivered
  • no response at all
  • rude treatment
  • being passed on to someone else
  • avoiding personal responsibility
  • nonverbal rejection
  • customer interview, or
  • customer interrogation

Apologies and Nothing More
A customer walks into a restaurant and leans against a freshly painted wall, leaving a paint smear on his coat.  All the staff members he talks to say they are sorry but there is no attempt to fix the situation.  "I'm sorry, but there's nothing I can do."  The customer says, "They're very good at saying 'I'm sorry' but they don't do anything.  'Sorry' isn't good enough.


The customer is blamed for the complaint.  "You must have handled it wrong.  You should have complained earlier.  You brought the wrong guarantee card in."  The customer says, "Their guarantees don't mean anything."

Promises That Aren't Delivered
The service giver promises to correct a mistake in a timely manner but doesn't.  This may be in sharp contrast to advertisements.  The customer says, "They definitely don't walk their talk."

No Response At All
This happens a lot.  People don't return telephone calls or respond to written complaints.  Customers sometimes call back several times each time being told they will be contacted, and nothing happens.  The customer says, "Forget it.  These people just want my money.  Then they're gone."

Rude Treatment
Many customers are handled brusquely; basic politeness goes out the window.  People are insulted; in extreme cases, they're made to feel like criminals.  "No one has ever complained about that, ever," the service provider may say. (This doesn't mean that someone hasn't felt like complaining, it just means that no one has complained yet). The customer says, "I'll never have anything to do with these people in the future".

Being Passed On to Someone Else
"I can't help you.  You'll have to go upstairs (talk to someone else ... write your comments down and send to another planet ...).  We are just the distributors - you'll have to contact the manufacturer.  The customer says, "Why do they make it so difficult?  Don't they want to hear from me?"

Avoiding Personal Responsibility
"I didn't do it.  It wasn't my fault.  I'd like to help you, but I don't handle this (I just work here - I don't make the rules - I didn't serve you - it was my colleague - it was our suppliers -  our delivery service - the mail man - our stupid policies - my bad manager - the phases of the moon...) and what did you expect anyway?  The customer says, "These people are buck passers.  No one wants to take responsibility, so they give me some junior who can't do anything..."

Non-verbal Rejection
Sometimes people being complained to frown, act impatient, or give the impression customers are wasting their time.  They have better things to do than to listen to customers and their tiny complaints.  This is never said aloud loud, but the atmosphere sings this message loud and clear.  The customer says, "They say they want to hear my complaints, but they don't make it pleasant".

Customer Interview
The customer is asked a long list of questions before any attempt is made to help.  "What is your name?  Your address?  When did you buy this merchandise? Who helped you?  Who told you that?  Did you pay cash?  Where is your receipt?  Do you have a customer registration number? What is your mother's maiden name?"  Perhaps the company needs the answers to some of these questions but this is not a good way to start the service recovery process.  The customer says, "Why do they hold me hostage when I just want to get my money's worth?"  Frequently, the customer interview leads to the customer interrogation.

Customer Interrogation
Customers are subjected to the third degree, which stems from doubt about the customer's motivations, competence or rights to complain.   "How can I be sure that what you say is true?  Are you sure you bought it here?  Did you follow the instructions?  Did you even read the instructions?  Are you sure you didn't drop it?"  The interrogations frequently ends with, "Anyone can make a claim like that.  You just wouldn't believe the number of people who tell us all kinds of stories."   The customer says, ".... [censored]...."


Shopping should be a pleasure for everyone involved - customers, staff and business owners - never a chore.  I spend my time working with retail business owners - helping them love their businesses back to life!  This blog is my thoughts, ideas, tips and  musings on what I find...