8 April 2013 556 words, 3 min. read

50% of companies do not apologise when they respond to a complaint

By Pierre-Nicolas Schwab PhD in marketing, director of IntoTheMinds
Research conducted on 226 companies showed that 50% did not apologize when dealing with a customer complaint. This is the opposite of good customer satisfaction practice.

50% of companies do not apologize when responding to a complaint. This results from an analysis we conducted on a sample of 226 companies who responded to an online complaint. And it’s the opposite of good practice in customer satisfaction management.

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complaint Methodology


The analysis was conducted on a corpus of complaints from the Scams forum (closed a few years ago). This forum was extremely active in defending consumer rights. Several thousand complaints were accessible, and companies were able to respond directly.

In addition to the fact that 50% of the companies did not apologize, we found that 27% of the companies provided an inadequate response to the content; in other words, they “missed the point” and sent the complainant a response that had nothing to do with the subject of the complaint. Worrying. The results are summarized in the presentation above.

customer complaint

It has long been shown that the successful handling of a complaint results in a paradoxical outcome: customer satisfaction after the fact is greater than customer satisfaction if everything had gone well, i.e., if the customer had not been prompted to make a complaint. A complaint allows the company to show the dissatisfied customer just how much they count and to demonstrate how central customer satisfaction is to its priorities.

The conceptual framework used so far is that of “Justice perçue“. Without going into details that might seem too “scientific” (if you’d like to know more, the presentation below will undoubtedly help you acquire the basic knowledge and, thanks to the references proposed, continue your quest for information on the subject), let’s say that the theory of “perceived justice” postulates that customer satisfaction following a complaint can be analyzed along three axes: distributive justice, procedural justice, and interactional justice. Interactional justice brings together “soft” elements that relate to the company’s appreciation of the interlocutor’s handling of the complaint: empathy, honesty, … and politeness. Thus, politeness influences interactional justice, which in turn influences customer satisfaction, which influences customer loyalty.

50% of companies do not apologize when responding to a complaint

A customer complaint is an opportunity

Rather than seeing customer complaints as a nuisance, let’s see them as an opportunity to improve. This is the thesis I support, and it’s also the one defended by Prof. Moshe Davidow, whom we had the opportunity to interview in March 2020. In the audio excerpt below, he gives us an update on customer complaints management in 2020 and explains good and bad practices.

Advice for your marketing strategy

A customer complaint is an opportunity. Marketing theorists say that a customer who complains has decided to “give the company a chance” to repair the damage caused and is inclined to continue their relationship with the company. In other words, a customer complaint is an opportunity to build loyalty, even if the customer is dissatisfied. Conversely, a dissatisfied customer who doesn’t complain will leave of their own accord.

Customer complaints are also an opportunity to collect ideas and suggestions for radically improving your products and services. To do this, however, you need to be equipped and have procedures in place to use complaints as a means of innovation. If you would like to research how complaints handling can help you increase customer satisfaction and loyalty, why not drop us a line?


Posted in Marketing.

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