Types of complaining customers

Contributor - Darren Young

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When customers are dissatisfied with the service you're providing, they will be one of four kinds of complainers: aggressive, expressive, passive or constructive. So how do you identify which type of customer you are dealing with and the best way to respond?

Aggressive complainer

The aggressive complainer is an extrovert who is controlling, practical and decisive. To get on their wavelength, avoid small talk and get straight down to business. Give them options so they feel they're staying in control. Aggressive complainers are most difficult to please and are often more concerned with displaying their emotion than actually achieving a solution.


Expressive complainer

The expressive complainer is also an extrovert but they are also more sociable and impulsive. They will respond to an enthusiastic presentation style and need time to talk. Go for the big picture and avoid too much detail if you want to win over an expressive customer.

Their social nature means that expressive customers are more likely to complain openly to others, but possibly not directly to you. They may use social media to express their dissatisfaction - which will give their complaint a public airing. You should consider responding publicly, swiftly and positively in return.

Passive complainer

The passive complainer is an introvert. They are friendly but can be totally indecisive. You cannot hurry this type of customer. They hate sales pressure and need reassurance.

Passive complainers are the most lethal to a business' success, as they will complain to everyone but the actual business. Since the business is left unaware of their error they can't correct it, and the only thing a passive complainer succeeds in doing is depriving the company of potential business.

Constructive complainer

The constructive complainer is organised and critical. They are perfectionists who can suffer from 'paralysis under analysis'. Give them plenty of detail and proof to win them over. Constructive complainers are most beneficial to a business since they are analytical and address their problem to the business in a calm, rational and detailed manner. This means you can identify the exact cause of the problem, making it easier to address and help you avoid future problems.

Whatever type of complainer your customer may be, it's important to deal with all complaints with the utmost care. After all, the customer is essential to business success.

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When a complaint is serious

Sometimes a customer complaint can be serious. If a customer has suffered loss or damage as a result of your product or service, they might have a claim against you.

Insurance can help protect your business against the financial and reputational damage caused by claims from members of the public. Risks can include harm caused by defective products (covered by product liability insurance) or if you give negligent professional advice (covered by professional indemnity insurance).

You should also take legal advice on how to settle any claim if a customer has grounds for a complaint.

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Darren Young

Darren has more than 20 years' experience in a range of customer service roles including project manager, head of customer service and operations director. He has worked in several sectors and managed major culture change programmes. He has an MBA in which he specialised in change management.

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