Protect your business from complaining customers

“I demand to speak to the manager!”

It’s a phrase that strikes terror into the hearts of millions and a phrase that calls to mind someone we all recognise. We all know her, we all fear her. She’s synonymous with complaining, unreasonable demands, and an unearned sense of self-importance. She’s the scourge of customer-facing staff for big and small businesses alike around the Globe. 

She’s... “Karen”.

What is a “Karen”? The definition of the most common complainer in the world

Gaining prominence around 2019, the term ‘being a Karen’ originated from an internet meme. Now, a “Karen” is usually defined as someone with unsavoury traits such as being obnoxious and having a sense of entitlement. A Karen will use their privilege to get their own way. It’s someone who complains and demands the world conforms to their exacting, precise and absurd standards. 

“Karen” isn’t a single person, it’s an entire personality. 

Covert Karens - These are the names of the women who are likely to complain the most

We’ve all met a “Karen”. Even if she isn’t called Karen, we’ve all met someone whose first instinct is to complain, no matter how unreasonable they’re being. In fact, most “Karens” aren’t even called Karen. 

Here at Bionic, we’ve analysed thousands of complaints from around the world to discover the true “Karens”. Through our extensive research we’ve discovered that, despite the stereotype, they come in many different forms.

We’ve discovered the covert Karens... 

The top 20 covert Karens ranked

RankNameHow often the name complained vs the total number of complaints (%)
1LOUISE4.80%
2ANN3.60%
3JANE3.30%
4MARIE2.70%
5ANNE1.90%
6MARGARET1.80%
7SUSAN1.70%
8KAREN1.70%
9MARIA1.60%
10JULIE1.40%
11HELEN1.30%
12ELIZABETH1.30%
13MICHELLE1.20%
14PATRICIA1.20%
15SARAH1.20%
16CLAIRE1.20%
17LINDA1.10%
18ROSE1.10%
19EMMA1.00%
20LISA0.90%

Despite becoming the namesake, it turns out that women named “Karen” don’t even make it into the top five. The person most likely to complain - that most quintessential of “Karen” traits -  is in fact named “Louise”. 

“Louise” is three times more “Karen” than Karen, responsible for 4.8% of complaints in the 1,799 reviews we analysed on Trustpilot. Next in line are “Ann” and “Jane”, who were responsible for 3.6% and 3.3% of complaints respectively. This places them second and third in the list of women most likely to be a Karen. Women called “Karen” are in fact responsible for just 1.7% of complaints, putting that name 8th on the list of current covert Karens. Tough break, Karen.

At the other end of the scale, those least likely to exhibit Karen-like behaviour are “Lisa” and “Emma'', who were responsible for only 0.1% of complaints each -  minimal Karen-ing from those two.

John and David are the most likely men to complain

The idea that only women can be Karens has no place in 2021, and we’ve all witnessed the not-so-fair sex exhibit Karen-like behaviour. In fact, some might even think the self-important attitude that typifies a Karen is far more often found in men than in women.  

With this in mind, we applied the same analysis to discover the most likely male counterpart to Karen. Here’s what we found...

RankNameHow often the name complained vs the total number of complaints (% )
1JOHN6.00%
2DAVID5.30%
3JAMES3.40%
4PAUL3.10%
5MICHAEL2.90%
6ROBERT2.30%
7MARK1.70%
8STEPHEN1.70%
9IAN1.60%
10RICHARD1.60%
11ALAN1.60%
12LEE1.50%
13ANDREW1.40%
14PETER1.30%
15WILLIAM1.30%
16ANTHONY1.30%
17MARTIN1.10%
18GARY1.10%
19GEORGE1.00%
20EDWARD0.90%

If your name is John, you might want to look away now -  of the 2,264 Trustpilot reviews we analysed, an eye-watering 6% of males complainers were called John. By popping up 136 times in our research, Johns have marked themselves out as the male-counterpart of Karen. 

Just behind John is David, who appeared 119 times, accounting for 5.3% of complaints, while James complained 77 times, making up 3.4% of the complaints we inspected.

The least Karen-esque people were Gary, George and Edward, those lads did not complain at all, and I’m sure front line staff everywhere thank them for that.

The top targets for Karens - Which industries are complained about the most across the UK?

Karens are indiscriminate in their attempts to make the world adhere to their every demand. But which professions bear the brunt of Karen and John’s unreasonable expectations? 

In our mission to find out, we took a look at those industries that most fall victim to the main weapon in every Karen's arsenal - the 1-star review.

The most complained about industries include online retail, finance and gambling

IndustryAverage % of 1-star reviews out of total 1 & 2-star reviews
Online Shopping95.18%
Finance92.99%
Gambling92.83%
Travel companies92.57%
Mobile phone & Broadband91.74%
Hotels89.87%
DIY & Department Stores89.26%
High Street Shops88.19%
Fast Food & Pubs86.94%
Supermarkets86.78%
High Street Fashion82.09%

*Based on Trustpilot reviews

Those who work behind the scenes at online shopping companies are most likely to be exposed to the wrath of Karen. Of the poorest reviews (those with 1 and 2 stars on Trustpilot) analysed in online retail, a staggering 95.18% of reviews were 1-star. Although being hidden behind the virtual walls of an online store means those involved might be lucky enough to avoid direct Karen contact, we still wouldn’t fancy being on the receiving end of a strongly worded Karen email.

Those who work in the finance (92.99%) and gambling (92.83%) sectors are second and third most likely to be receiving some 1-star aggression.  Airlines landed 4th with 92.57% of the 1-star reviews, while those who work in call centres for tech and mobile phone networks came in 5th spot with 91.74% of the 1-star reviews. These workers are perhaps the ones most obviously in the firing line of Karen-like customers’ ire.

The global geography of the Karen - Which countries complain the most?

Karens aren’t just concentrated in the UK, they’re a global phenomenon. 

And some areas are cursed with more Karens than others. We’ve used location data to work out the countries with the highest concentrations of Karens and covert Karens (Johns and Louises) around the world.

Map of the world showing the countries with the most number of Karens who complain
RankCountryNo. of KarensPopularity rank in the country*
1United States1,584,76423
2England282,74328
3Canada142,34816
4Philippines98,933214
5Mexico84,903260
6Brazil78,581409
7Australia70,68418
8Chile43,04290
9South Africa36,808220
10Armenia34,6417
11Honduras32,20734
12Scotland31,98030
13Denmark27,41442
14Ecuador27,001142
15Peru26,102242
16Germany23,381463
17New Zealand23,35616
18Colombia21,496305
19Venezuela21,341224
20Russia19,927319

*Popularity rank refers to how popular that name is within the country vs every other name recorded.

The US leads the way with 1,584,764 Karens - a country where Karen also happens to be the 23rd most popular name. This is easily the highest number in the world, almost four times the number found in the UK, which placed number two on the list. Here, a comparatively small 282,743 Karen's reside despite it being the UK’s 28th most popular name. 

Canada comes in third with 142,348 Karens, where it’s the 16th most popular name. Karens are also very common in the Philippines, where there are 98,933 Karens, even though it's only the 214th most popular name.

Which UK cities complain the most? London is the UK’s Karen Capital 

Map of the UK showing the regions with the most number of Karens who complain

Within the UK, it’s England's metropolitan capital that has the most Karen's - London is home to 29,335 Karens, making it the 36th most popular name in the city. The North isn’t without its share of Karens either. Manchester comes in second, with 16,410 Karens, the West Midlands has 13,287 Karens, West Yorkshire 11,975. Kent has the fifth-highest number of Karens with 10,986.

The covert Karen capitals - Which countries are home to the biggest complainers?

Map of the world showing the countries with the most number of people called Louise and John who complain

Of course, there’s also the covert Karens - John and Louise. Both of which are most commonly found in the USA, with 5,450,646 Johns in the country (the most popular name over there!) and 286,075 Louises (only the 278th most popular name).  

England makes the top three for both John and Louise, making it a hotspot for the most common complainers.

London tops the UK ranking for cities with the most complainers

Map of the UK showing the regions with the most number of people called Louise and John who complain

We can now reveal that you’re most likely to run into the UK’s most common complainers in London. Unfortunately, the big smoke is home to the most Johns, all 128.5k of them, and Louises, with 22.9k in total.

In second was Manchester, home to a whopping 61.7k Johns and 9.3k Louises. Birmingham rounded off the top three with the West Midlands hub playing house to 8.6k Louises and a huge 52.9k Johns. 

Bar London, Maidstone was the only southern city to make it into the top 5 for either John or Louise. Nestled in the scenic Medway region, Maidstone has a strong population of 6.4k Johns making it a complainer capital. 

The correlation of Karen - What names are most likely to become the future Karen?

While Karens are usually characterised as being women of a certain age (did you say ‘boomer’? We’re sure we heard someone say ‘boomer’...), data amassed from the Office of National Statistics has shown us that the number of Karens has actually remained relatively steady over the last 25 years. The name even enjoyed a slight bump in 2019, when the number of new Karens reached 1,940, right around the time the Karen meme started to enter the public consciousness. 

The top three female names most likely to become the next biggest complainers

Graph showing the female names most likely to complain in the future

The popularity of names is like the vagaries of fashion or the whims of difficult customers - slightly fickle and constantly changing. But in our quest to discover all things Karen, we examined Office for National Statistics data that tracks the popularity of the names between 1996 and 1998. Using this data, we were able to see which names correlate most closely with Karen - and we think we’ve discovered who are most likely to be the complainers of the future. 

Our findings have shown that Rhiannon could well be the next Karen, with that name sharing a striking correlation to the popularity of our complainer-in-chief. Louise, our most popular complainers name comes next (no surprises there) with Melissa coming in third.

The top three male names most likely to become the next biggest complainers 

Graph showing the female names most likely to complain in the future

As we know, John is the male counterpart of Karen. But John has got competition, with Jermone coming in on the list behind him, just ahead of Paul.

Top tips on how to deal with complaining customers

Unfortunately dealing with a “Karen” or just a bog-standard complainer is never a particularly pleasant experience for either party. But there are ways to quell the quibbles and alleviate the abrasion between yourself, as a small business owner, and an irate customer. 

1. Keep calm and keep your head

It’s vital to stay calm and listen to your customer. Hear them out. Listen (and we mean really listen) to their issues. Even if you don’t think their point of view is completely accurate or right, you need to show a willingness to at least hear their side of the story.

2. Be solution focussed

Acknowledging the customer’s feelings and offering a solution goes a long way. If your company is genuinely in the wrong, offer a genuine apology. If you and the customer are never going to agree it’s best to just focus on how the situation can be rectified. Be polite, genuine, and let them know you hear what they’re saying.

3. Stick to the facts, don’t get emotional

If you aren’t able to come to a solution, then you’ll need to calmly let them know why. At this point, it’s important to keep your head and explain the situation factually, not subjectively. Emotion feeds fire and you don’t want to poke the proverbial bear.

4. Keep records and protect yourself

Keep records of your service, work or sales so you have a paper trail. Keep communication open and transparent with your customer so they also have a record of the exchange. Remember, it’s also important to manage customer expectations. 

5. Know your rights

This one sounds scary but it’s good to know your legal rights and what customers are entitled to. If you ever feel like you could be on the verge of a legal issue you should seek professional legal advice as soon as you’re able. There are also plenty of resources you can access for free online. 

Finally, we always recommend investing in public liability insurance just so you have a piece of mind and are covered if the worst does actually happen. If you have even one employee, then employee’s liability cover is a must, while if you’re in the business of giving advice, then you should consider making professional indemnity insurance part of your policy. 

At Bionic, we offer a choice of over 40 insurers, from a specially sourced panel, that cater specifically to small businesses so rest assured you’re in safe hands. 

Methodology

Covert Karens - Bionic’s data analysts scraped the 1 and 2-star reviews of 84 companies on Trustpilot. In total, 1,048,555 were analysed. After the reviews were collected, analysts used ONS data to find the most popular male/female UK names since 1996. These names were then matched against the names of the reviewers resulting in the number of times each name has given a bad review. The % of how many times the “name” complained vs the total number of reviews was calculated by looking at the number of times each name was mentioned out of the total number of names mentioned.

Karen Capitals UK & Worldwide - Using the top complainers from the covert Karen methodology (John and Louise), each name was inputted into the Forebearers database to collect location data on where these names are most commonly found, both worldwide and in the UK

Industry Rating - By totalling the number of 1 star and 2-star reviews for each brand, the most complained about industry could be calculated, this was done by calculating the % of 1-star reviews out of 1 and 2-star reviews combined. The average % for the industry was then calculated

Correlation of Karen - The correlation figures were calculated using ONS data. The popularity of each name was collected for the years 1996-2019. From here correlation figures could then be calculated using the 'CORREL' formula where each name was correlated alongside the name “Karen” to find out which name's popularity most closely matched that of Karen. Names with a score closest to 1.00 show the highest level of correlation and, therefore, match Karen's popularity the most.