Two-thirds of Customers are Used to Waiting Up to Three Days for Complaint Resolution

Exceeding Customer Expectations is Easy if You Address Complaints In a Day (or an Hour)

When you get a customer complaint, how fast do you respond?

You may have been told customer complaints should be resolved as soon as possible — and that’s probably true.

But would it surprise you to learn most customers have been trained to put up with a wait of between one and three days to have their complaints addressed? That’s according to new data from GetFiveStars, a company that’s created a platform encouraging small businesses to get feedback and reviews from its customers.

GetFiveStars co-founder Mike Blumenthal surveyed a group of 480 adults about how long they expect a local company to respond to a complaint. While 38 percent said a local business should respond to a customer complaint within one day, that wasn’t the real shocker. No, that came when a surprising 30.3 percent of those responding to Blumenthal’s survey said they believed three days was enough time to respond. Really?

That means two-thirds of your customers, presumably, don’t expect you to respond to their complaint right away.

It seems like a long time to let a complaint fester. And Blumenthal believes small businesses can thank big companies for lowering the bar.

Blumenthal told Small Business Trends, “The consuming public have very low expectations.”

He suspects that the approach taken by big businesses — particularly those that exist with little or no competition (like cable companies) — have trained the average consumer not to expect rapid response.

And some customers seem content to let their complaints go even longer than that without resolution. GetFiveStars’ data reveals 12.5 percent of customers don’t really expect a company to get back to them to resolve their issue in less than a week. These are some understanding customers indeed!

Exceeding Customer Expectations is Easy if You Address Complaints Quickly

But just because customers have been trained to put up with long waits to get their issues resolved doesn’t mean you should make them wait. Blumenthal explains. “It’s not about excellence. It’s about exceeding expectations.”

If you want to stand out from the competition — particularly big companies that make customers feel like their concerns don’t matter — then get in front of complaints right away.

GetFiveStars data shows that only 15.9 percent of those responding expect a company to get back to them in just one to three hours. While only 1.9 percent say they expect an immediate response.

But remember, this is only about what customers have been trained to expect from the companies with whom they do business. What would happen if your business went the extra mile?  How much good will could you generate for your business by addressing problems within hours instead of within days?

Well, a lot, it seems. Blumenthal’s data suggests 90 percent of customers whose complaints were addressed quickly and who felt their problems had been resolved to their satisfaction, would remain loyal to that business.

“You’re winning the battle for loyalty,” he explains.

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Joshua Sophy Joshua Sophy is the Editor for Small Business Trends and the Head of Content Partnerships. A journalist with 20 years of experience in traditional and online media, he is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists. He founded his own local newspaper, the Pottsville Free Press, covering his hometown.

3 Reactions
  1. Working for SMBs I’ve seen firsthand how blown away people are when you reply with a resolution withing a couple hours. Even if you can’t save them as a customer, the positive impression often got them to continue recommending the businesses to others.

  2. That’s great but that doesn’t mean that we should try to reply to their complaints less than that time. It pays to always go another mile.

  3. Great data! I think it highlights a key issue. Most of us would say that a business *SHOULD* resolve complaints quickly, but the graph suggests that many customers have come to expect most businesses will take at least a day. So, a business that can get really good at resolving most complaints faster than that can stand out and exceed expectations.

    Here’s another example of the same concept: