Your most valuable customer might be the one who hates you

By: Lisa Sigler

August 21, 2014

Customer Engagement
customer experience
customer experience management

Angry customerWho is your most valuable customer? Which one captures the bulk of your time and attention? If you are focused on customer experience, your most valuable customer may very well be the customer who complains the most.

The value of the squeaky wheel is that it points out where the grease needs to go.  A customer who vents his or her hatred through complaints and negative feedback gives you incredibly valuable insight into how processes can be fixed, which employees need to be better trained, which product features should be improved (or are missing), and how a host of other potential disasters can be averted.

It’s hard to embrace haters. Complaining customers may be bitter, hostile, even evangelistic in their anger toward you. Consumers who have a bad experience want to warn others, and one motivated complainer can cause a viral nightmare. Sometimes it has nothing to do with your company, your product, or your employees, and sometimes there is nothing in the world that will satisfy them – but at least they care enough to complain.

In fact, customers who take the time to complain are often the ones who care the most.  They had high expectations that you didn’t live up to. They interacted with your brand and have something to say. They didn’t just turn against you – they asked for something better. And even if their complaint is just a parting shot on their way out the door, it still gives you a precious gift: information that you can use to improve your business going forward.

The silent, happy majority is critical to your bottom line, but those folks aren’t giving you any direction. Unhappy customers who churn without a word give you even less.

But the demanding one? The one who grumbles, nitpicks, argues, objects, and criticizes? That is the one who really matters. If you listen, respond, engage, and embrace the complainer, that is the customer who can make you great.