Last week was my birthday. We celebrated by having a mains water leak, directly into our home.

Not the perfect way to spend what should have been a fun-filled Friday. But it was interesting – to say the least.

We had two very different plumbers.

The first was, let’s say (and I’m being kind here) not the sharpest tool in the box. He left leaving the job worse than the one he’d found, meaning we had to turn off the mains supply to the whole house. No water for my birthday. I flipped it – we had beer.

The next morning a second plumber turned up. He was brilliant.

We asked how we could compliment him to his boss. He kindly showed us an NPS survey and he even gave us his boss’s telephone number, so we could send him a message.

It was interesting that both Christine and I were really happy to compliment him but less so to complain about the first chap.

I started to think about why we don’t complain and wondered if others had similar thoughts.

To test my theory, I carried out some detailed research (also known as setting up a LinkedIn poll) and asked the question ‘Why don’t you complain?

51% thought their complaint wouldn’t make a difference. A further 32% said they just couldn’t be a@#!d.

Many responded with, But Michael, I do complain!Not actually answering my question, but then I’m not complaining 😉

How would you feel if someone had a complaint about your organisation – or even worse, about you?

Would you treat it as ‘a gift’?

Would your first reaction be Think what we can learn from it?

Or might you become defensive?

Considering how many people don’t generally bother, isn’t it time for us to welcome and act on complaints – especially when our customers have the courage and the reason to pass one on?

Be Brilliant!


PS Please leave your thoughts and comments below. I’ll send a copy of my book 5 Star Service to our favourite.



  1. July 15th 2021 by Des Reynolds

    I see complaining as a chance for a company to correct something wrong, and a company that does correct things can actually leave a customer with a better impression than if nothing had gone wrong in the first place. Complaints are definitely an opportunity to impress customers 🙂

  2. July 15th 2021 by Dave

    complaining can be challenging as many of us don’t like conflict, however with age i’m definitely getting better at it.

    For me the key is that the complaint needs to be focused on what needs to be resolved, what should be done better and should be delivered politely. Often it’s a process issue that I hope is of value to help the business avoid being in the same situation again.
    A more shouty response such as ” i’d never deal with this business again” isn’t particularly useful in my view.

    In a retail job many years ago, my boss, who was very good at dealing with complaints positively used to ask the customer what they’d like to do to resolve the issue – at least 50% of the time the customer didn’t know and it was more a case of managing their frustration – the resolution was often quite simple.


    btw the link to leave a comment from the email directly wasn’t working – but maybe that was just a test to see if we’d complain 🙂

  3. July 15th 2021 by Rob Begg

    A friend of mine once told me:

    “Rob, I don’t tell people or complain about my problems anymore……because half the people are not interested and the other half are glad I’ve got the problems.”

    It was funny because of the truth in it but on a serious note, I believe one reason we don’t complain is because of our inherent (subconscious) desire to be liked.

    We think we may be judged for complaining and disliked in some way so we don’t do it…. despite feeling we should.

  4. July 15th 2021 by Derek Crysell

    Complaints should be warrented in the first place, and if viable, should be acted upon to improve service, and more importantly to show the customer that you value their custom and input. If a customer feels they have put more effort in to get their issue sorted out than the business has in correcting the issue then thus is where it goes wrong, with complaints then being feathered out away from the company but to social media and by word of mouth. The most damaging thing to businesses is not dealing appropriately with valid customer complaints. I do complain if I am not satisfied with what I am told I’m am getting and I have paid good money for the specific service, I also complain because I care about the service provider because I want them to do well.
    Kind regards,
    Derek Crysell.

  5. July 15th 2021 by Annie Watsham

    I always couch a ‘complaint’ in positive terms, about how great *this* was however maybe it would be helpful in the future if *that* could be addressed. Always with a smile and a light atmosphere. If that doesn’t work (it usually does) I’ll get a bit *heavier*. I don’t complain much, only when absolutely necessary. As for someone complaining about my company (again this doesn’t happen much either!!)? I’ll endeavour to take it a as constructive criticism. If the criticism continues and I know it to be unfair/unjust I’ll send a firmly worded email. Usually works. One gets to know the ‘moaners’…

  6. July 15th 2021 by Russ Martin

    My book which I have been writing for the past on and off 10 years is nearly there. How life has changed which has given me great fuel for moaning and there is plenty of it. I’m now a grumpy oldman but luv it. My mates keep saying your not a famous footballer, notorious, a chef ex politician, bigamist, just a normal geezer whose done a bit over the last 60 years. Champagne Mouth with a Lemonade Pocket. Cheers

  7. July 16th 2021 by William

    The percentage figures suggest that 17% DO complain. Perhaps if more did, things could improve. Interested by the number of people who couldn’t be a@#!d – and the 52% who thought it wouldn’t make a difference. Anyone serious about Customer Experience and Service welcomes complaints as a chance to get things right and to show they value their customers.

  8. July 19th 2021 by Gillian Westlake

    I always complain and compliment hopefully in equal measures . I believe feedback is a gift 💝

  9. July 19th 2021 by Gillian Westlake

    I always complain and congratulate in even measures hopefully. I BELIEVE FEEDBACK IS A GIFT

  10. July 19th 2021 by Rhona Morrison

    In my previous job ,as Associate Medical Director for Mental Health in NHS Forth Valley, I was responsible for carrying out a service review after every suicide. I met the relatives personally and sought feedback on their experience of our service and promised to address all of their questions and complaints within the review. I would then give feedback personally and a written report . The aim was to reflect , learn and improve, not to be defensive. It felt important to learn something, even if it wouldn’t have changed the outcome, and to be able to show that something positive had come from a difficult situation. I actually enjoyed the process itself, as it felt person centred and we were always tweaking our service to improve . It was beneficial for staff and relatives as it gave some closure.

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