What drives ‘Interesting’ Customers to complain?


Do you ever wonder what motivates some customers (Internal and/or External) to complain?

I was recently delivering some training into an organisation that defines feedback as;

A complaint, compliment, opinion or suggestion’. 

If you share this definition of feedback, and you are dealing with customers, sometimes they offer you ‘feedback’, in the form of complaints.

While there might be useful information within the complaint, it is also useful to consider what might be motivating the customer to complain.

The Ombudsman Western Australia has identified four categories of behaviour to help explain why some customers engage in certain behaviours.  These are interesting to consider if your role involves dealing with many customer complaints:  WA Ombudsman publication

 Emotional or psychological:

‘Anger and frustration (e.g. as a result of unmet expectations), unreasonably refusing to accept an unfavourable outcome, seeking vindication, retribution or revenge, holding an exaggerated sense of entitlement, needing to blame others’. 


‘Dissatisfaction with a person, an agency, the government or ‘life’ in general’.


‘Seeking ‘justice’ or a ‘moral outcome’ in general terms, focusing rigidly on a ‘matter of principle’.


‘An all-consuming hobby, deriving pleasure from the activities associated with the complaint process, social contact’.

Some of these definitions from the Ombudsman surprised me, (the customer having ‘a dissatisfaction with life in general’ is my favourite).

The next time you receive some interesting feedback in the form of a complaint, as well as searching for the gold in it, also consider what might be motivating the customer’s behaviour.  While responding professionally, listening to the customer and treating the customer with dignity and respect, considering what might be motivating that customer’s behaviour is useful.  This will help you decide to what degree you take on board the feedback – or not!

If you would like to know how to move up the Feedback Readiness Ladder, please contact Sue Anderson.


Sue Anderson

let’s connect…


Mobile: 0417 052 739


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