An open letter to every CEO who has ever received a complaint

An open letter to every CEO who has ever received a complaint

Dear CEO,

I know your time is precious and you have more important things to do than read the outpouring of grief from an unhappy customer who is writing to complain. I know you have an entire department dedicated to reviewing, assessing and investigating complaints, complete with template acknowledgement letters, leaflets and spreadsheets. I also know too that your business has a need to protect itself from every Tom, Dick and Harriett member of staff doing something that opens you up to multi-million pound lawsuits.

But just once in a while how about you pick up a letter and read it. Not just read it, but reflect on it. Consider what your company did that prompted that one customer to put fingers to keyboard and write to you. Not your published complaints address, or to the local newspaper, but to you. With a stamp.

And just once in a while why don’t you discard the suit you wear and the air of high office that most surely got you to where you are and instead don jeans and t-shirt and baseball cap and walk in their shoes. Be that unhappy customer for a few hours and call your order line, visit the store or whatever else it is that the customer is saying is the cause of their grief. Put aside any thoughts of “I know how my business should be” and instead view it as it actually is from the shoes of that poor individual.

Of course you should rely on the reports and ensure the complaints department is doing all that it can to correct the customer’s problem and ensure it doesn’t happen to others. Of course you should allow them to investigate the circumstances and determine whether and what redress is appropriate. All I’m asking is that you take a bit of your time to understand what it is really like to be someone who hasn’t had that great experience you want your business to deliver.

Until you have the confidence to do that, and the confidence that whomever you report your findings to will take them seriously and act on them, you’re not even close to understanding your customers.


Yours sincerely,



Ross Hall

(A customer who might have complained)

About Ross A Hall

A business researcher and writer, I help companies find new markets, form strategies and build successful businesses.

Find out more about my work.

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