The Connection Between Customer Loyalty and Customer Complaints

Companies that receive a steady stream of customer complaints surely risk losing customers if there is no genuine attempt to first listen to the complaint and then take steps toward a resolution.  In fact, some studies suggest that over 90 percent of customers who are upset and have a complaint will never buy products or services from the offending company again.  The good news, though, is that nearly 75 percent of these customers can be won back if there is a process in place that makes them feel like their concerns are being heard — and that someone is taking steps to resolve their problems.  

Customers’ complaints may not even be solved in exactly the way they originally envisioned, but if they know that the service provider is trying to address their concerns, the chances that they will buy from that provider again are very high indeed.  Not only buy again, but that complaining customer could actually become a loyal customer. 

How does this work?  First, customers don’t see “a company,” they see individual people who happen to work for a company.  All the human dynamics that operate in day-to-day relationships are at work in the customer-employee transaction.  So, if customers have someone listening to their complaints, they find psychological comfort in that.  Even though the original expectation was not initially met, a relationship begins to develop when the customer has a genuine “live” person who is listening to their complaint.  Now, add on a customer-centric employee who clearly communicates with the customer as steps are taken to resolve the issue.  This not only builds the relationship and increases the comfort level of the customer, it actually produces a feeling of obligation on the part of the customer — that is, the customer feels a sense of loyalty toward the employee (and, by association, the company) who has worked to solve the problem. 

We all feel a sense of loyalty toward those who genuinely listen to us and take steps to address our concerns or solve our problems.  That is a human dynamic that is true in all relationships, and it is true within the context of customer service as well.  The conclusion is inescapable: Allowing customers to complain and acting on that complaint can produce loyalty and repeat business.