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Why Customers Complain and How It Can Help Your Business

Social media and online reviews have given your customers unprecedented abilities to complain about your business in front of the world. While that may sound like a bad thing, hearing the hard truth about your business via customer complaints can actually benefit you in the long run. What do customers complain about most—and what can you learn from it?

Poor customer service is the top cause of customer complaints, a study by Corra reports. More than half (52 percent) of survey respondents say they would complain about a service issue, 31.4 percent about a product problem, and 16.6 percent about a policy issue.

Chief among the specific service issues that motivate complaints are rude customer service reps, poor service at a store, uninformed customer service reps and slow service at check-in.

But the initial problem a customer has with your product or service isn't your only concern. More than half of respondents say they are likely to complain publicly if a company doesn't adequately resolve a product or service problem. In other words, you can mess up once, but if you don't make it right, you're in trouble.

What motivates customers to post complaints on social media or write negative online reviews? Overall, their goals are altruistic: Nearly three-fourths (73.2 percent) say they hope to save other people from having the same bad experience. About half (48.3 percent) want to get a refund, 39.7 percent want the company to change its policies, and 38.9 percent want to receive an apology. Just 13.5 percent post negative feedback because they want to damage a company's reputation.

What's the takeaway for your business? While things inevitably go wrong from time to time, the way that your customer service team responds to mishaps can be the deciding factor in whether a customer slams your business on social media or sings your praises. Customers are much more forgiving than you may think: A whopping 89 percent of customers say they will give a company a second chance after a poor experience. Since customers are rooting for your business to make things right, resolving an issue to a customer's satisfaction can actually make them more loyal than before the initial problem took place.

How can you ensure that your small business’s customer service stands out?

  • Avoid frustrating situations like accidentally hanging up on customers or keeping them on endless hold by choosing a business phone system that makes it easy to transfer calls between multiple devices.
  • Offer customers a variety of options for connecting with your customer service, from phone calls to live chat and email. When customers can reach out to you in the format they prefer, they'll feel more positively toward your business.
  • Use unified communications to ensure that you and your team are always available, whether in the office or on the road, and can easily access the information needed to give customers the service they want.
  • Avoid growing pains by selecting a cloud-based communications system that easily scales up so it can grow with your business.

About the author

Rieva Lesonsky is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media and custom content company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship. Email Rieva at, follow her on and visit her website,, to get the scoop on business trends and sign up for Rieva’s free TrendCast reports.