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Want Happier Customers? Increase Customer Complaints

Updated: Jun 27

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We’re all familiar with the expression “no news is good news.” However, when it comes to customer satisfaction, this may not be entirely true. Studies indicate that for every customer complaint, there are 26 other customers who remain silent. But how does this apply to mobile operators?

At Subtonomy, we analyzed field data earlier this year. A transmission issue in the core network resulted in connection problems for customers in a specific area. As expected, calls to customer care increased significantly, with technical support calls from this region rising 15-fold. In such cases, customer care can inform callers about the ongoing issue and reassure them that it is being addressed. Customers are then relatively satisfied – problem solved!

The most interesting aspect, however, was examining how many subscribers were actually affected by the specific issue that day.

It turned out that 67 times more subscribers were affected by the issue than those who called support. These numbers include customers who experienced service issues, some of whom made several attempts to establish a connection.

So why did only 1.5% of the affected customers contact customer care? Perhaps the effort was seen as too high. Nobody really wants to spend their free time contacting customer care unless absolutely necessary, especially if it involves waiting in line. Additionally, calling someone about a problem may feel like it will lead to social friction. Hence, most people may decide to “wait out the problem” for a while and hope it gets better.

What can be done to address this silent 98.5 % who are dissatisfied?

Whatever the reasons, these silent 98.5% were probably still annoyed with their service. So annoyed that they would churn to another operator? The majority probably wouldn’t, at least if the problem doesn’t keep recurring. However, from an NPS perspective, the likelihood of these customers recommending their mobile network to a friend likely took a hit. According to studies, a dissatisfied customer is likely to tell 9-15 people about their negative experience.

Andreas Jörbeck, Subtonomy CEO gives his view:

“I think the key here is to make it as little of an effort as possible for customers to check if there’s a problem. If you can allow them to reach out and immediately flag an issue without any waiting time at all and then make sure to re-connect with them once it’s fixed, that would make for happier customers.”

So, problem solved, right? Well… Lowering the effort to complain will, of course, mean more subscribers reaching out and a lot more trouble tickets for you to manage. A few years back, Amazon made it extremely easy for their Kindle customers to immediately reach a live agent by just pushing a button. This presumably led to a lot of calls, and the service has since been canceled (search for “Amazon Mayday prank calls” and you’ll get the idea). This is where automation and self-care come in.


“Self-care can really help you scale up here. Most customers just want to know that the issue they’re having is being looked at and get an estimate of when it’s fixed. If you can offer them automatic trouble-shooting and tell them this in seconds without involving an agent I’d say that would have a significant impact on their satisfaction. A lot of this has already been done on the billing side, and we want to see the same shift happen for technical support.”

Capture and address customer complaints to increase satisfaction

In conclusion, if a business decided to reduce complaints by simply removing all contact details from the company website, they wouldn’t get any complaints. However, that is not the way to go. By making it as easy as possible for customers to reach you, you can ensure they stay happy, even if the actual number of complaints increases. The key is to capture and address these complaints effectively, as what customers really hate is feeling ignored. If done well, you can satisfy your customers by encouraging them to share their complaints directly with you.


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