Wouldn't it be awesome if literally everyone who bought your product or service was thrilled with how it works and had nothing but good things to say about it?

How cool would it be if every customer survey you ever sent out showed 100% satisfaction and every review on your product page was glowing — featuring video testimonials of people weeping tears of joy, saying they intend to renovate their homes and dedicate entire rooms to storing as much of your product as they can afford?

All of that would be fantastic, but the cold reality is that no company sees that kind of praise. Any product or service is bound to run into some kind of criticism, and it's important to know how to handle it as it comes in. Here we'll learn more about the concept behind that negative reception: customer dissatisfaction.

Let's take a look at what that term means, where it comes from, and what you can do to address it.

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Customer dissatisfaction can drag down any facet of your business. If it's left to run rampant, it has implications on your sales, marketing, and — most obviously — customer service efforts. In this day and age, you can't expect a dissatisfied customer to stew in silence over their issues with your business.

The modern consumer is vocal, and with platforms like social media and review sites at their disposal, they can reach a lot of people. If you have a base of disgruntled customers operating as anti-evangelists, you're going to run into trouble.

Consumers often trust each other more than they trust the companies they're buying from. So it's easy for a massive swath of angry customers, all venting their frustrations about you, to undermine your sales and marketing efforts.

On top of that, dissatisfied customers can inundate your customer service department with less-than-pleasant, exhausting support inquiries. It's crucial that you stay on top of any potential customer dissatisfaction, but to do that, it's important to understand where that frustration might be coming from.

1. Issues with Quality.

Customers might raise concerns and complaints about the make or durability of your product. This point underscores the principle that underlies customer dissatisfaction in general — the value you project should never overstep the value you deliver. If you bill your product or service as the premier option in your space, its quality needs to reflect that kind of posturing.

Take this example from a $500 wooden bed frame available on Amazon. Its price and promotion are tailored to demonstrate premium quality, but it doesn't quite live up to that billing.

customer dissatisfaction 1

Image Source: Amazon

The reviewer here doesn't say the product is terrible — they say it's "just OK." But they didn't pay for "just OK." In this case, the product in question didn't meet the quality standards the consumer was led to anticipate, so the company selling it wound up with a dissatisfied customer on its hands.

2. Issues with Pricing

In a similar vein to the point above, customers might complain about a product or service being overpriced. Customers might wind up being overwhelmed and turned off by how expensive a product is — even if they're getting a lot out of it.

Again, this ties back into the value point I just touched on. An inflated price implies an equally inflated value. If your company can't consistently provide customers with enough value to justify your price points, you're going to end up dealing with your fair share of customer dissatisfaction.

3. Failure to Meet Specific Expectations

Through offering product descriptions, showing product photos, and providing product specifications, you're setting objective expectations — letting prospects know what they can and should expect to receive as part of their purchase.

In setting those expectations, you're promising to deliver on them, so if you don't make good on them, you're violating your customers' trust and actively misleading them. Naturally, customers won't take kindly to that.

In the example below, the manufacturer's product photos gave the shopper the impression that the chair was larger than it actually was and featured more cushioning than it actually did. So the customer essentially bought the product on a false premise — giving the company a vocally dissatisfied customer to deal with.

customer dissatisfaction 3

Image Source: Amazon

4. Failure to Meet Perceived or Implied Expectations

Expectations can extend beyond the ones you set through specifications. Sometimes, customers will assume your offering has certain features or benefits that it doesn't. This could mean that your product or service description was ambiguous, or maybe your customers might be holding you to the standards of your industry peers.

For instance, patrons of a local restaurant chain might complain about not receiving free bottomless salad and breadsticks like they do at a similarly priced national franchise. Or, as shown in the example provided below, customers could be upset about products not living up to implied performance or usability standards.

In the instance referenced below, the retailer in question specified that its workout bench had folding legs — they didn't explain what it took to fold them. Though the company didn't say its product's legs folded easily, it didn't not say it either.

customer dissatisfaction 2

Image Source: Amazon

It billed the product as a convenient, easily storable workout bench, and the consumer made their own assumption about what that meant. They were ultimately disappointed and thoroughly dissatisfied.

5. Issues with Usability

One source of customer dissatisfaction is usability. If your product or service isn't user-friendly, customers will get frustrated and not shy in expressing it. If your business is in the SaaS space and your user interface is consistently giving customers headaches, they're going to speak up about it.

If this point is constantly giving you trouble, it's important to keep tabs on the specific concerns customers are consistently airing out. You can use that information to inform your user experience as it evolves.

6. Problems with Customer Service

This is kind of a meta-point. Your customer service department is on the front lines when it comes to handling customer dissatisfaction, so if your service reps are consistently difficult to reach, lacking empathy, or being flat-out rude, you're going to wind up with some particularly dissatisfied customers.

Take the example below — a review for a $1,000 Pop-A-Shot basketball home-arcade game. The customer in question ran into considerable trouble with the game's assembly and was in desperate need of some guidance from customer support.

customer dissatisfaction 4

Image Source: Amazon

Unfortunately, the department wasn't responsive — frustrating the consumer and generating a great deal of customer dissatisfaction.

1. Get ahead of it by consistently asking for and acting on feedback.

One of the best ways to minimize customer dissatisfaction is to avoid it in the first place. Stay privy to what your customers think you're doing well and where you have room to improve.

Conducting customer surveys is one of the better ways to nail this point. Follow up with customers after their purchases to see whether your product or service is addressing their relevant pain points. If you have the resources, conducting focus groups can be another means of exposing these issues and receiving constructive feedback.

Once you've gathered that insight from your customers, be sure to do something with it. If you're in the SaaS space, see if you can address the prominent gripes customers have with your product in a new update. If customers are consistently saying your product is solid but overpriced, consider reevaluating your pricing structure.

Leveraging feedback to preemptively address points of customer frustration is one of the best ways of minimizing customer dissatisfaction. After all, it's impossible to be dissatisfied with something that's been taken care of in advance.

2. Quickly and thoroughly respond to service inquiries.

Customers often wind up dissatisfied when they think they don't matter, and nothing gives them that impression faster than being kept on hold for hours when they're having trouble with your product or service.

As I said before, your customer support department is your first line of defense of customer dissatisfaction, that's why it needs to be well-staffed, well-trained, and well-equipped to thoughtfully and comprehensively handle a high volume of service inquiries.

Let customers know you care by offering them thorough assistance through their issues and concerns — assistance that they don't have to wait too long for. Even if they're not wild about your product, offering exemplary service can at least calm angry customers down, mitigating your problems with customer dissatisfaction.

3. Thoughtfully respond to negative feedback online.

I touched on this earlier, but I'll reiterate — dissatisfied customers don't always keep their frustrations to themselves. They might air out their anger on social media, Google, product pages, or review sites.

If you find yourself dealing with this kind of customer, it's important that you don't reflect their tone, get defensive, or clap back. Take their feedback into account, publicly respond to their criticism, be transparent about your mistakes, ask questions about any details that might not be clear, empathize, and offer solutions.

Doing so demonstrates an earnest desire to continuously improve your customer experience. Even if the customer in question isn't receptive to your response, other prospects seeing it will know your company is thoughtful and sincerely invested in its customers. It's an excellent way to both address customer dissatisfaction and project how you put your customers first.

Customer dissatisfaction is a cold reality of running virtually any kind of business. There's no guarantee that every customer who buys your product or subscribes to your service is going to be happy with it. That's why it's important that you have safeguards and processes in place to identify any potential sources of customer dissatisfaction and help mitigate it when it arises.

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Originally published Aug 21, 2020 8:00:00 AM, updated August 21 2020