"Understand Customer Behavior and Complaints"
January 2003, pp. 51-55
The authors of this article use research data to argue that there are eight factors about customer behavior that are key to understanding the implications of complaint data:
- Dissatisfied individual and business customers tend not to complain—In several business to business studies, an average of 25% of business customers made no contact with the vendor when they encountered problems. One alternative was to just take their business to another vendor;
- Complaints often do not directly identify the source or cause of the problem—"A major problem in the collection of customer problem data is a lack of differentiation between the reason for the complaint and the cause of the complaint. Customers usually discuss symptoms that are evident to them rather than the underlying cause;"
- Retail, field sales and service systems filter and discourage complaints—"The absolute number of articulated complaints in a particular area cannot be considered in isolation. A key factor is the potential extent to which the field or retail services have reduced the signal received by headquarters;"
- Brand loyalty can be retained by merely getting customers to articulate their problems—Though a combination of getting the customer to articulate the problem and satisfying them with the response is best, merely getting them to articulate the problem (combined with dissatisfaction with the response) leads to more brand loyalty than saying nothing about the problem to the company;
- Increasing the ease of access to the provider can reduce the complaint ration (also known as the multiplier)—Aggressive complaint solicitation through toll-free numbers or other feedback mechanisms breaks down barriers to making complaints;
- The propensity to complain is directly proportional to the perceived severity of the problem and damage to the respondent—Consumers tend not to complain about things they perceive as just minor inconveniences;
- Complainers tend to be the heaviest users of the product or service—Therefore, these are the people who represent the greatest potential market damage if they are dissatisfied; and
- Problem experience, especially in the case of those consumers who remain unsatisfied after complaining, results in substantial amounts of negative word of mouth—Dissatisfied customers tend to tell twice as many people than satisfied customers do about their experience.
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