With customer service, silence isn't always golden

Updated Nov 10, 2023
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Be warned! The silent customer can be one of your biggest problems.
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Don't you just love clients who are easy to do business with? You know...the silent ones who always seem to be satisfied. They seem too good to be true. In fact, you hardly hear from them, so you must be doing a great job.

While it's easy to assume that the customers who don't get in touch with us are happy, that's not always the case at all. When it comes to customer service, silence is not always golden. Here are a few things to keep in mind about those "silent customers."

Beware the silent customer

The Technical Assistant Research Program (TARP), a customer service research organization offers these rules about customer service.

  • The 8/20 Rule: This rule says that a dissatisfied customer will tell between 8 and 20 others about their experience. 
  • The 4% Rule: This says that only 4% of customers who have complaints will tell you. But the 96% remaining will tell others.

With these "rules" in mind, it's important that we don't assume the silent customer is a happy one.  As Ron Kaufman has said, "Silent customers can be deadly. Encourage them to complain."

You are much better off knowing WHY a customer is unhappy than not hearing from them at all. While complaints are never easy to hear, they also pose an opportunity to improve. Silence doesn't give you that chance.

Consider these strategies

The following strategies can help you to avoid silent treatment. 

Listen to the customer: Saturate everyone in your organization with the voice of the client. You can do this by inviting and passing along regular feedback and client comments (both good and bad).

Initiate regular contact: Your clients may not be reaching out to you...but reach out to them! This makes them feel valued, involved, and well-informed. Don't assume they saw you just because you were on their property.

Make personal contact: Make personal contact with clients whenever possible and when you miss them, leave a note or follow up with a phone call. You can keep a client contact log and set your schedule to contact every client on a regular basis.

Don't assume: Finally, do not assume that if you don't hear from a client that they are okay (or happy). Check-in no matter what.

Some good news 

Here's some good news to consider. According to TARP, 50 to 80 percent of all complaining clients who have their complaints resolved become a company's most loyal clients. So, don't be so grateful for the easy, silent customers. Invite complaints and initiate communication...then act on what you hear. 

The bottom line is don't assume the quiet is truly silence. There may be sounds about your service that are heard by everyone but you. Clients who are silent to you, are not always silent to others.

Fred Haskett and biography

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