7 Things Most Customers Won’t Tell You – Unless You Ask

I worked with someone from Britain a few years ago and I was often shocked at how honest he was.  I used to tease him and compare him to Simon Cowell, the infamous direct communicator – which he did not find very humorous.  Anyway, I learned that culturally honesty and being very direct is just a communication difference between us and the Brits. He would often point out, in a tease, how Americans are so polite (ok in general) and tip toe around the obvious making it difficult to truly understand what someone is thinking or not thinking.  This can be challenging when you are trying to understand the customer experience.

Customer research suggests that 96% of people won’t bother to complain with a business.  Some because they don’t like conflict, some because they just don’t have the energy and some just don’t care enough.  That means that only 4% of people who have a bad experience with an organization are going to tell you about it.  What is the worst thing about these statistics are that people who have a bad experience, may not tell you but they definitely tell others.  People now use social media to vent frustrations at an alarming rate, so why would you not want to know what your customers – the people paying your bills – are thinking about the product or service you provided them?

7  Things Most Customers Won’t Tell You

1.  Dirty Facility

A lot of organizations lose sight of an aging and tired looking facility.  However, a customer will notice it the minute they walk in the door.  Nicked up walls, stained carpets, dirty glass, filthy restrooms are just examples of the facility issues that customers contend with but organizations often neglect.  How often have you gone into a restroom and there are no paper towels, soap or even worse toilet paper?  Or how often have you walked in the door of a business and there was just a foul odor?  These are all things that customers notice but business owners become immune to.

2.  Rude Employees

Rude employees can be the detriment to any organization.  I left a physician who I had gone to for 30+ years because of rude and incompetent employees.  What is unfortunate, is he never asked me why I left so I never told him. I have complained about rude employees in the past, but only when they are off the charts inappropriate.  The ones who are simply dismissive, inattentive and socially awkward don’t usually warrant a direct complaint.

3.  A Bad Website

A company’s website is the window to the world in today’s competitive environment and there is no excuse for having a slow, disorganized and confusing website.  Gone are the days that it costs tens of thousands of dollars to have a nice website.  This one cost the price of a domain and annual hosting fees. There are lots of free software available and free help setting up a domain, so there are no more excuses.  I went to the website of someone I know recently to purchase a product off of a registry and was shocked at how poorly designed the site was and how difficult it was to navigate.  I should probably tell her, but I probably won’t.

4.  Process Improvement Opportunities

Customers walk through the processes that companies layout for them and are the best person to identify flaws in the system.  Most customers will accept the process as is, tolerate it if the end product is worth the frustration but will rarely say anything.  For example, if your website is difficult to navigate, but there is a product that the customer is looking for, they may spend the time trying to find the right page, but won’t necessarily tell you how difficult it was.  This is why it is so important to find an objective person to walk through all customer processes to ensure they are user friendly and easy to navigate.

5. What Others Are Saying About You

Have you ever had someone tell you about a bad experience with an organization? When that happens, you know first hand of service challenges, and even though you may use that same company, you probably won’t say anything to them.  Another example is social media and the way people have (sometimes unfairly) posted negative comments about a business without that business even knowing about it – at least until they read it online.  Those kinds of public relations nightmares are difficult to mend but so important to know about!

6.  A Competitor is Doing the Same Thing for Cheaper and Faster

The competition today is relentless and as soon as you think you have a competitive edge, someone comes along and figures out a better, faster, cheaper way of delivering the same product.  This makes it very challenging for businesses to compete. Customers are probably not going to bother telling you that a competitor beat you out – they will simply disappear and spend their money elsewhere.

7.  When They Have a Great Experience

I’ve had many great experiences with businesses, and I rarely tell them but I do tell other people who have a need for the same product or service.  This is particularly true for the countless new online businesses that are catering to small business owners.  I love sharing a cool website or product that I have discovered that makes my life easier.  You know the old word of mouth theory really is the best way to acquire new customers.  And guess what, it’s free, if your product and service can “wow” the customer!

Ok, we’ve identified those things that most customers won’t tell you, but we now need to help you figure out how to encourage customers to share their experiences (good and bad) so you can try to fix what’s broken, create products that customers want and use customer testimonies to encourage new customers.

So the question is, how can you find out this kind of information from your customers?

Host a Customer Focus Group

Customer focus groups interviews are a great way to hear specifics on what customers like, dislike and ideas for new products and services.

Customer Satisfaction Survey

Customer satisfaction surveys can provide the data to identify what is working and what needs to be adjusted on services and products.  It also provides correlations between what the customer values and their intent to continue using products and services.

Customer Comment Cards

Customer comment cards provide more immediate feedback from customers and can capture customer response while the experience is still fresh in the customer’s mind.  This is a great opportunity to identify those things that affected the immediate experience of the customer.

Customer Interactions

Relationships really are the name of the game and interacting with customers on a regular basis sends the message that you care and it makes them feel valued.  I don’t think I’ve ever dined in a nice restaurant without seeing the manager interacting and thanking customers for coming in and checking on their experience.

Service Recovery

Every organization should have a service recovery process that allows employees at all levels of the organization to fix customer problems.  Great organizations do a good job of this and it pays off by creating a committed, loyal customer base.

Hearing customer complaints can be difficult, particularly when you and your employees are working so hard. However, until you can identify those things that the customer wants, and is willing to pay for, you are wasting your time.  Customers who share feedback with a business are gifting them with the information they need to provide the products and services that people are willing to pay for.

Do you know what your customers are thinking?


photo by: gcoldironjr2003


  1. […] Successful organizations understand the importance of employee engagement. Employees need to feel like they do meaningful work and what they do makes a difference.  Engaged employees put their heart and soul into their job and have the energy and excitement to give more than is required of the job.  When employees are not engaged, it can have a negative effect on the customer experience. […]