What do you do when customers refuse to complain?

What do you do when customers refuse to complain?

When people cease to complain, they cease to think: Napoleon

I fear for the English then.

As a general rule of thumb, we love to gripe, grumble and whinge but we rarely complain in a formal sense.

As social anthropologist Kate Fox observes in Watching the English: The Hidden Rules of English Behaviour:

English customers may moan indignantly to their companions, push the offending food to the side of their plate and pull disgusted faces at each other, but when the waiter asks if everything is all right they smile politely, avoiding eye contact, and mutter, ‘Yes, fine, thanks'

Typically, for businesses, the evils of the 'silent complaint' usually manifest themselves as lost future trade or a damaging rant on social media. And suing a customer for defamation is usually not a realistic option.

So how can traders fight against the tyranny of the invisible moan?

Counter-intuitively, there is plenty of research to show that encouraging complaints is actually good for business (see, for example, this recent article from Forbes in the States).

So, here are some tips and pointers to draw out complaints and, importantly, stay on the right side of the law:

  • Remember that under the Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regulations 2013 traders must tell consumers about their complaint handling policy 'where applicable' (this information becomes an implied term of the contract with the consumer under the Consumer Rights Act 2015 which comes into force on 1 October).
  • Write terms and conditions that work (see our post: 9 top tips on how to draft terms and conditions that actually work). Don't hide the dispute resolution provisions deep within the 'small print'. Be brave! It is OK for traders to highlight their complaint handling policy in friendly tones: 'Whilst we hope that nothing goes wrong when you buy from us, sometimes they do. Here’s what you can expect from us if our goods or service fall short [

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