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Tim McDermott “How To Get Less Complaints”

Oh complaints.  If you have been in leadership in radio for more than a month, then you have gotten at least one!   Often times these come from people commonly called “Crusaders” and represent a very small part of your audience. Whatever you do on the air – it’s not “good enough” or “Christian enough” for them.  By the tone in their voice and the length of their e-mails you know these are people who need special handling.  Who knows how many times a day they get angry – in traffic, in line at the grocery store, in the donut shop?…  My advice.  Don’t engage them.  Just thank them for expressing their opinion and move on.


But what about complaints in general?  Is there a way to mitigate them?

The answer is YES.


I remember years ago at a Brad Burkhart seminar he used the analogy of a Coke Machine and your radio station.  He said when people pressed the button for a Diet Coke, they wanted a Diet Coke.   He was talking about the importance of format consistency in order to be a great radio station.   When people don’t get a Diet Coke and it’s not something they like – what happens? – they complain. They call the station and gripe out the receptionists (poor receptionists!) or worse yet – they turn the radio off.


What if you prepared them for the change you are about to make and told them in advance why you were making it.  The best way to reduce complaints is to pre-market the change before you make it.


If you’re thinking about going “All Christmas Music” this year and you have never done it before then let them know why you are making that change.   Make sure the why is in alignment with your mission statement.  For example, you could say “we have a strong desire to see more people reached for Christ this year, so we are going to do something different.  We know Christmas time is a great time of the year for people who aren’t Christians to listen to Christmas music and our desire to introduce them to the Savior of the World.  We know that some people may not understand, so if you could help me tell them why, we believe we can have an even greater impact…”


Here are some other key points:

-Have the most trusted person at your station deliver the on-air message.

-Make sure you get the message out in advance.

-Put it on your social media channels, your e-mails, your newsletter.

-Write down the most important “whys” so anyone who is on the frontlines will have them – receptionists, on-air, promotions staff at events and your board.


I am not guaranteeing you will not get a complaint, but I am guaranteeing you will receive far less of them.


One more point.  Only do this for BIG changes.  I have found some stations can draw attention to all changes including small ones no one would have even noticed.  They are answering a question no one is answering. When you go on the air and talk about a small change, you have just made it BIG.  Instead of going on the air, just make the change and then prepare the same front-line people with the WHY information so they will have it IF someone calls in.  My experience for small changes is they are just that – small.  “We are no longer going to play Two for Tuesday.”  That would be a small change.  Don’t make it bigger.

Tim McDermott has over 40 years of radio leadership experience.  He is currently the COO at PraiseLive and can be reached at tmcdermott.cpa@gmail.com

2 thoughts on “Tim McDermott “How To Get Less Complaints”

  • Great thoughts, Tim. Wise advice — don’t engage just be nice and polite. Apologize if necessary. As Proverbs 15:1 states, “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” And, if you are making major program or format change get feedback from a group of loyal listeners ahead of time before announcing changes to the general audience. Positive feedback from listeners ahead of time helps to pave the way to acceptance by many. Let listeners and underwriters/advertisers help sell the audience on big changes. Plan a big promotion as a strategy in launching or announcing your changes to the public. Use a popular personality or personalities to share your plan or vision. As the saying goes, only a fool goes to court representing himself. Let others speak for you. There is strength in numbers.

  • Hi Tim, Always great comments that develop from years of experience in Christian broadcasting. The thing that I discovered over the years is that a person making a complaint wants to be heard. Don’t listen to the complaint with words on your lips that you just can’t wait to release with an explanation. When you have listened to the individual say, “Well, this was our thinking with that decision.” That makes your response a little more objective. You could ask, “Do you understand our reasoning?” The conclusion could be, “Call me back if you have additional thoughts, but I have taken some notes and I have heard your concerns.” You will probably never hear from the person again because they are satisfied someone listened.


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