top of page

Want happier customers? Get them to complain to you more

Updated: Oct 30, 2023

A lo of emojis - thumbs up, thumbs down, sad, smiling, screaming.

We’re all familiar with the expression “no news is good news”. But when it comes to customer satisfaction, this may unfortunately not be entirely true. In fact, studies say that for every customer complaint, there are 26 other customers who have remained silent*. But how does this hold true for mobile operators?

At Subtonomy, we looked at some data from the field earlier this year. A transmission issue in the core network resulted in customers having connection problems in a certain area during the day. As expected, calls to customer care increased. In total, calls from this region related to technical support went up by a factor 15. In cases like this, customer care can then inform callers about the ongoing issue and that it’s being worked on. Customers are happy (well, relatively) – problem solved!

But the interesting thing was to look at how many subscribers had actually been affected by the issue that day. Compared to how many subscribers called in, it turned out 67 times more subscribers were impacted. And not just being in the area, but actually suffering from not being able to setup a connection, with some of them having quite a lot of attempts.

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. Calling someone about a problem may also feel like it’ll lead to social friction. Hence, most people may decide to “wait out the problem” for a while and hope it gets better.

Whatever the reasons, these silent 98.5%, were probably still annoyed with their service. So annoyed they would churn to another operator? The majority probably wouldn’t. At least if the problem doesn’t keep happening. From an NPS perspective though, the chances of these customers recommending their mobile network to a friend probably did take a hit. According to studies**, a dissatisfied customer will likely tell 9-15 people about it.

So what can be done to better address these silent 98.5% who are dissatisfied?

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 comes 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.”

So in conclusion, if a business decided to reduce complaints and simply removed all contact details from the company web then they wouldn’t get any complaints, but that would likely not be the way to go. By making it as easy as possible for customers to reach you, you can instead make sure to keep them happy, even if the actual number of complaints goes up. The key is to make sure you can capture and address these complaints, since what customers really hate is feeling ignored. But if done well, you can satisfy your customers by getting them to complain to you more.


bottom of page