What You Can Learn From Retail Customer Complaints – Bosses’ (Serious) Edition

To work in retail is to hear complaints. It’s your job to address each complaint, found or unfounded, from each retail customer. While this part of the job is often the source of headaches, it can also be educational. Here’s a list of things you can learn from customer complaints.

“It doesn’t work right.”


When a retail customer returns an item because it didn’t work properly for them, one of two things has happened. Either the product malfunctioned or the customer didn’t understand how to use the product. In both cases it would behoove you to evaluate what you could do better.

If the product has bugs, they need to be fixed or you’ll continue to receive complaints or lose customers. Their initial complaint is an opportunity for you to make a better product.

By the time they arrive at your store with their return in hand, customers don’t want your lesson on how to properly use the purchase. They’re frustrated that it didn’t work right the first time. Take note of their mistake and evaluate what you can do to prevent others from experiencing the same frustration. Could the instructions be written more clearly? Should the product come with a training video or free installation? Don’t just learn from your mistakes; learn from theirs, too.

“You need to open more registers.” Or “The lines are too long.”

waiting in line

Patience is a virtue because it’s rare. When customers complain about their wait time, you have the opportunity to reevaluate staffing needs. Are there certain times of the day or seasons of the year when you need to have more staff scheduled to work? If the complaints tend to happen around the same time, more workers might remedy the situation.

These types of complaints could also point to system inefficiencies. An outdated or non-user friendly POS system may slow your workers down more than you realize. The layout of your store may create the appearance that lines are longer than they are. Your customer reward program sign-up may be jamming up the lines. When lag times are too long, check all the systems to be sure they’re functioning optimally.

“Nobody in this place knows anything!”

brainy people

While this complaint is likely a bit hyperbolic, nothing frustrates customers more than being passed from one employee to another to find the answer to a question. Some situations may require a supervisor’s approval, but others are simply a case of poorly trained employees. From cashiers who aren’t sure how to process gift cards to salespeople who are uneducated about the products, your employees represent your company, for better or worse.

It’s one thing to offer training and something else entirely to know for certain that it stuck with your employees. Retail customers let you know pretty quickly with the feedback they provide.

“The right hand doesn’t know what the left hand’s doing.”

handy hands

When the sale ad doesn’t match the marked price, which doesn’t match the price at the register, customers (rightfully) become annoyed. The best way to prevent such occurrences is to ensure that all of your systems are updated at the same time. You can thank price-watching customers for bringing the discrepancies to your attention.

A retail customer doesn’t (always) complain because they’re just an angry person. Sometimes they are simply stating how you can better serve their needs. Listen closely.

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