There are several explanations for the fact that customers do not get any answers to their complaints. Sometimes an employee may hear a complaint and not pass it on.
Those who investigate the behavior of organizations have found that just as customers do not like to complain, employees do not like to convey these complaints to the hierarchy of the organization (1).
Apparently, employees have the impression that when they give bad news to their superiors they are criticizing those who make the company’s policy. So they cover up the complaint, blame the customer, or simply don’t pass on the information. Other researchers have suggested that just as employees don’t like to convey complaints, managers don’t like to hear about customer dissatisfaction (2).
Perhaps the manager frowned or seemed angry when he heard a complaint. How many employees want to deal with that? Changing these attitudes toward grievances at all levels of the organization is the basic principle for eventually being able to hear from customers what companies want to hear when their customers are dissatisfied.
In a widely disseminated survey, employees were asked about the motivation they received from their bosses to inform them about customer opinions or complaints. About one-third of employees felt that their bosses encouraged them to inform them about customer feedback. But more than 17 percent said they received no motivation at all, and nearly 23 percent said they received only a small stimulus (3).
When we’ve asked managers directly if they want to know the relevant customer opinions, they’ve all replied that they push their employees to talk. There’s something wrong here.
Surveys of customer service department employees suggest that the more complaints the department receives about other types of customer communications, the further away the department will be from the rest of the company.
Customer service departments become the guardians of the dirty secret of customer dissatisfaction. This type of “vicious circle of customer complaints” (4) suggests that the more complaints a company receives, the less it wants to hear them, which in turn probably means that the company is less effective in dealing with them.
-Text from the book “A Complaint is a Gift” Janelle Barlow and Claus Moller, 70.
– (1) Claes Fornell and Robert A. Westbrook, “The Vicious Circle of Consumer Complaints,” Journal of Marketing 48 (Summer 194), 68-78.
– (2) Alan R. Andreasen, “Consumer Complaints and Redress: What We Know and What We Know Don´t Know.”, in The Frontier of Research in the Consumer Interest, ed. E. Scott Maynes, et al.
(Columbia, Mo.: American Council on Consumer Interests, 1988), 675-722.
– (3) Fred Jandt, The Customer is Usually Wrong! (Indianapolis, Ind.: Park Avenue Publishing, 1995), 130.
– (4) Fornell and Westbrook, “The Vicious Circle”, 68-78.