Top 20 Customer Service Complaints

Do you ever wonder what return on investment customer service training will bring? Training that focuses on driving customer advocacy will increase the chances of a positive return. However, this is often hard to see as senior executives are continually looking only at the bottom line results and wonder how customer service training will directly impact those. The answer lies not in looking at the bottom line but rather the front line. This is because the bottom line results are only lagging indicators from the events that occur on the frontline.

Research from the London School of Economics identifies whilst more positive word of mouth is good, there is a far greater return on businesses who reduce the amounts of negative word of mouth, suggesting this has a greater bearing over the push to create customer advocates who recommend the business to their friends and family. Most organisations will have the odd complaint however these are rarely compared or analysed given there is probably a good amount of positive compliments flowing in.

Customer complaints are an ideal catalyst for organisations to reflect, learn and then make improvements to their customer service. When making transformations to the overall customer experience, these individual complaints or feedback need to be looked at as a whole and not in isolation which is what is generally practiced. I’m sure when this is done, there will be some clear patterns that form which enable a more holistic analysis of the organisation. It is also possible to suggest that these complaints are too held by the customers who choose not to formally complain, but still feel strongly. There is a dated perception amongst leaders that receiving no feedback is a good thing because the customer is satisfied. Even if this is true in parts, it will not help in any way for the organisation to be better than what is the average.

As I work with organisations, I like to paint a picture of what customers are thinking. From my experience, I have collated the top 20 customer service complaints. These are not in order from most common to least common, rather a collection of 20. I have worded them in a generic way so that they can be contextualised to a variety of situations. Some may resonate more than others and some may not be applicable at all. If you are fortunate enough to not have any of these complaints in your business, they could be used as a checklist or even as rhetorical questions when leaders stand in the customers shoes looking into their business. (note: customer focused leaders should start if not doing this already).

There is a swarm of humorous videos doing the rounds on social media starting with “Things never said by…” Australian comedian Troy Kinne has released a few like “things never said by new parents”, “things never said by couples while assembling Ikea items” and “things never said by the boss.” So even if you’re looking for a chuckle, you can reverse the negative into a positive and see whether you can put your hand on your heart and confirm this as fact in your business.

  1. I got told about this, why haven’t the staff heard about it? They seriously have no clue.
  2. There is never a manager around.
  3. Would it be so hard to just get acknowledged?
  4. You’re still not making any sense. I don’t understand.
  5. I’m not being listened to. They just seem keen to argue.
  6. Take some responsibility, I don’t want to hear that it’s not your fault.
  7. The computer/self-service isn’t working but no one is around to help me. There’s never enough staff rostered.
  8. They weren’t even interested to hear what I’ve been through.
  9. I’m complaining to you now, why do I have to put it in an email?
  10. Why can’t YOU just solve my problem?
  11. You’re all just the same as each other. Typical.
  12. I’m being treated as a number not a person.
  13. Your TV ad says you’re all about service — I disagree.
  14. They didn’t take any care or pay any attention. I was rushed through and still don’t have what I wanted.
  15. I don’t trust that they’ll do it right.
  16. Why does it have to take so long?
  17. Why can’t they see this from my point of view? It is just impracticable.
  18. Would it hurt to make the place a bit more presentable?
  19. I can tell they really don’t want to be here.
  20. I’m definitely not coming back or recommending this place to others.

How do these questions compare to your organisation? Click on the link below to have your say and rank these from most common to least common so we can find out if there is a number 1 complaint!


Chris Smoje is a customer service speaker, trainer, facilitator and founder of the DIME™ Customer Service approach. Chris works with organisations and their people to develop a common interest and excitement about delivering exceptional customer service results:

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