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How to Manage Client Complaints Using Pareto’s 80/20 Theory

Pareto, an Italian Philosopher, said that everything falls into the realm of 80/20 and one can apply this theory to everything we do in life and use it to improve our businesses and our relationships.


20% of your clients generate 80% of your profits
80% of your clients generate only 20% of your profits

20% of your clients give you 80% of your problems
80% of your clients give you 20% of your problems

20% of your staff gives you 80% of your problems
80% of your staff gives you 20% of your problems

20% of your friends you hang around with 80% of the time
80% of your friends you hang around with 20% of the time

20% of your clients give you 80% of your problems
80% of your clients give you 20% of your problems

So when clients complain such as…

“….I’ve never had to pay for advice/client visits before…”
“…“the previous partner included (all that extra advice) & I have never been charged for this…”

My thoughts go to the 80/20 rule to determine how to manage this rather than (prior to Pareto) “…..better change everything as clients are complaining…”

I stop and ask myself “…….Do these clients, who are complaining, represent 80% of the clients, or do they represent 20% of the clients?….”

If they represent 80% of the clients then I have a real problem and I need to address it immediately. It should be about managing their expectations from the first contact via an Engagement letter right through to the Acknowledgement letter that is sent out each time you get their work in to work on it (examples of these letters are in the WIZE Vault) as a reminder “…how we work here…” as people forget, through passage of time.

Hence relying on an Extraordinary System versus relying on Extraordinary people to manage the clients’ expectations.

If the complaining clients fall into 20% of the clients then there is no need to change the whole system where 80% of clients are happy. It wouldn’t make sense to change in order to pacify the 20% complaining clients.

The course of action: just spend more time educating and training this 20% as to “…..How we do it here…. no, we are not a charity and if you think we are, then let me inform you otherwise…(I was being cheeky ?)…”


P.S. Whenever you’re ready… here are 4 ways we can help you grow your Accounting or Bookkeeping business:

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