Sign up to get full access to all our latest content, research, and network for everything customer contact.

5 Most Common Customer Complaints and How to FIX Them

Don't simply diffuse customer complaints - INVESTIGATE them

Kindra Cooper

Customer complaints

Customer complaints aren’t just a minor annoyance in an agent’s day; they signpost crucial shortfalls in the customer journey that could be losing you business.

We hear the same pain points over and over – long lines, unhelpful staff, endless transfers – so it’s about time businesses not only think about what to say in response to a complaint, but how to eliminate the complaint for good. 

Here are the 5 most common customer complaints, how to investigate the root cause and what to do about them. 

  1. “I’ve been waiting for so long.”

For a business, long queues are positive; they signal high demand. Unsurprisingly, customers perceive them differently. Always find ways to shorten queues. If a customer is disgruntled at the beginning of their purchase experience, it leaves a bitter taste throughout – provided they don’t walk out. 

UK-based clothing brand Oasis has iPad-toting sales associates roving the floor to ring customers up anywhere in the store and circumvent checkout lines altogether. They can also check inventory, find product information for a particular item or place an online order on behalf of a customer if an item is out of stock.

Read more: 6 Brands that Handled Customer Complaints on Social Media Like a Boss

Meanwhile, H&M has outfitted several of its branches with on-demand fitting rooms, where customers are notified by SMS when one is ready for them, instead of having to wait in line. Sometimes, the tweaks are a simple matter of process redesign.

For instance, my favorite salad joint in New York City provided a station by the entrance for customers to bag their own food to shorten the time spent at the cash register.

  1. “I keep getting transferred.”

In a digital-first era where self-service reigns supreme, multiple transfers are unacceptable to customers accustomed to getting the answers they want in just a few clicks. If the transfers occur over the phone, reprogram your IVR. Perhaps the “sorting bins” are too vague or they’re mislabeled, or perhaps your agents are over- or under-specialized. 

If the customer complains about transfers in your webchat, install a “panic button” for them to contact a live agent if their issue goes unresolved by the chatbot. Periodically reexamine your FAQ and online knowledge base for outdated information.

Read more: Customer Experience Fails this Week - Drunk Driving, Dog Poop and More 

Finally, make sure all staff are properly trained to handle customer queries, even those that don’t pertain to their area of expertise. 

During a recent visit to a Walmart after moving into a new apartment, I was shopping for wall paint. I flagged several store associates near the paint section, but only one person knew how to mix paint, and she, I was repeatedly told, was on her lunch break. What if she had called in sick that day? The store would have lost sales. 

  1. “I bought your product but it doesn’t do what it’s supposed to do.” 

Sometimes, customers purchase a product with misguided expectations – but who’s responsible? Saying marketers like to exaggerate the truth is an understatement, but when you over-promise or skimp on pivotal details, customers are misinformed.

Customer complaints

They need to have ways to self-educate and comparison-shop before they buy, or they’ll forgo buying from you. Make sure the product information on your website contains dimensions, colors, a full list of features etc. and enables customers to compare similar products. Never underestimate the power of a “You may also like…” section on your website. 

Alternatively, it’s possible the product does do what the customer needs it to; they just don’t know how to use it. Help the customer with their specific use case but also revisit your self-service portals to make sure they aren’t lacking critical information.

Finally, if the customer complaint seems like a glaringly obvious experience gap or you’ve heard the same complaints from several customers, consider alerting the product team.

  1. “You don’t seem to care.”

Apathy is the number-one customer complaint, and once a customer levies this accusation, they’re already halfway out the door. What they’re really saying is: “You only care about my money.” It’s a serious accusation resulting from the accumulation of annoyances and inconveniences that led the customer to feel neglected. 

Read more: 4 Times Brands Nudged Customers to do the "Right Thing"

Specifically, it highlights the fact that customers are likely to run into multiple pain points in the customer journey. It’s prudent to remember that for every customer that complains, 26 remain silent (and quietly take their business elsewhere).

At this point, it’s not enough to be friendly and provide a timely resolution – although that does help. You need to compensate the customer for their trouble and reassure them that they can confidently do business with you again. 

  1. “Well, your competitors said they would do this…” 

Today, big-box stores are willing to price-match with Amazon. Recognizing the intensity of competition, businesses are increasingly loath to lose their customers to a rival. Don’t lose a customer over something small the competition does that you don’t; tell the customer you’ll match the price or toss in that extra feature or perk – then turn that into a standard offering. Also, use it as a learning opportunity to stay ahead of the curve regarding customer service policies or service design.