How to Handle Negative Customer Feedback
In a perfect world everyone would like everybody else, and every business would be so well organized and service oriented, clients and customers would only ever give positive feedback. But the truth is that we don’t live in a perfect world, and people are often ultra-critical about other people and businesses, whether they offer services or sell goods. So if you’re about to launch a new business, be aware that you will get negative customer feedback as well, however hard you try to please.
The good news, though, is that there are proven ways to handle negative customer feedback, and turn things around so that your business would learn and benefit from it.
What you need to accept at the beginning is that it is clients and customers who usually make or break a business. It doesn’t matter which niche you choose to fill, without them, your business simply cannot succeed. This is exactly why customer service is such an important element of every business for entrepreneurs.
Obviously, good products and services are also needed for any business to success. It is also a fact that it doesn’t matter whether the business is online, operating off a high street or even if the business owner works from home, the principles remain the same.
In this article, we will show you that 1) negative feedback can be positive, and 2) how you can turn it into a positive engagement with the customer. We will discuss how you can assess problems and give guidance on how you should respond and give positive feedback to customers even if you were in the wrong. We will also show how you can use negative feedback to improve your business. There has been a lot of research on the 3) impact of negative customer feedback. With reference to a few of these studies, we will explain the dangers of ignoring negative feedback, and discuss the value of good customer service and show how it can help your business succeed and become more profitable.
NEGATIVE FEEDBACK CAN BE POSITIVE
It doesn’t matter whether feedback from customers is positive or negative; you can usually turn it around and make it positive. Furthermore, it’s a whole lot easier to handle when you realize that negative feedback is inevitable and can provide your business with a unique opportunity to grow.
Negative feedback isn’t always easy to deal with, while it’s much more comfortable dealing with compliments. Even if feedback is negative, customers are engaging with you. If they didn’t care, or it didn’t matter, they wouldn’t bother. Also, the fact that people leave negative feedback doesn’t necessarily mean that you are in the wrong. But if you are wrong, you’ve been handed a golden opportunity to get it right next time.
When you receive a negative feedback, the secret is to assess the problem, respond immediately in a sincere and respectful manner, and then do whatever you can to either rectify the problem within your business, or explain to the customer that their feedback wasn’t justified. If you respond straight away and show that you care about your customers and their complaints (even if they aren’t justified), you’re likely to keep those customers and continue to build a stronger business. More details on this process are below.
One thing you must never do is to ignore negative comments and reviews. It’s not only the customers who have made the negative statements who are watching you. If you are operating on a public forum – social media for instance – your audience could be huge, which could help you turn negative feedback into a positive marketing plan.
TURN NEGATIVE FEEDBACK INTO POSITIVE ENGAGEMENT
There is an old saying that the customer is always right. Of course this is nonsense, nobody is always right. But the quickest way to lose a customer is to tell vehemently that person they are wrong.
Here are six powerful ways you can turn negative feedback into positive engagement.
1) Assess the Problem
Any form of feedback is generated from something that relates to the goods or services involved with your business. There is no doubt that you as entrepreneur who maintains good human relations will be sensitive to people’s needs (in terms of both employees and customers). In turn, your employees are more likely to provide the best possible customer service to those they deal with. But this doesn’t mean they will always be in the right.
To assess whether the customer is right or wrong about a complaint, you need to understand the trigger. It is important to recognize why a customer is providing negative feedback. You need to find out what has upset that person and what they believe is wrong. Often asking the question is a good way to understand the reasons for customer unsatisfaction. Often customers will rant and rave and not spell out exactly what has occurred. For instance, negative feedback might simply state that the products sold are sub-standard, or that the company doesn’t do business in a professional manner. In this event, it’s quite acceptable first to ask for more information so that you can find out what, in fact, has happened.
Apart from anything else, if you ignore negative feedback, there’s a good chance you’ll find another customer giving similar negative feedback in future. Similarly, those who are happy with your products and/or services are much more likely to recommend the business to others, and keep using it. By assessing the feedback in a positive manner, you can do something about the source of the problem, and either prevent it happening again or know why people react negatively. Either way, by objectively assessing the problem, you can pre-empt a similar situation happening in future.
2) Respond Immediately But Don’t React
It’s human nature to react when we get negative feedback, either about ourselves, our families, people we care about or our businesses and business dealings. While it is essential to respond quickl and nowadays, it is very easy to respond immediately, it is equally important not to react defensively and to allow just a little time to respond appropriately. Think carefully about what you plan to say, and if needed, bounce your response off someone you know and trust. Don’t wait days, but do wait until you have absorbed what has been said and determined how fair the criticism is. If you are answering negative feedback telephonically or via email, your comments will be relatively private. If you are responding via social media, Facebook, for instance, then be aware that other people will see your comments and this may lead to further negative comment.
3) Respond Sincerely, Respectfully, and Thankfully
Whatever you decide to say, make sure that your response is respectful and sincere. You want your customers to know that you really do care about them. You should also thank them for the feedback, even if it is awful. Put yourself in their shoes, and remember the maxim: The customer is always right. It might be difficult, but if you respect your customers and deal with them in a polite and thankful manner, you will ultimately benefit.
While it certainly does take time for entrepreneurs and business owners (and their trusted employees) to respond to comments from customers, you will find it is worth the time and effort since you can use this as an invaluable tool to boost customer retention and support. In fact if you bother to respond to all the negative comments you get, you are going to be amazed at the results.
4) Correct Customers if Their Feedback is Wrong
Having said that customers are always right, there are some situations when they aren’t. And in this situation you have every right to correct them. But first you need to assess the situation objectively. However hard it is to swallow, negative feedback is often totally justified, whether the business is a new one or whether it has been established and operating successfully for many years. Friends, family, and colleagues can all help you decide whether the feedback is essentially right or wrong.
Sometimes it even pays to rectify a situation even when a customer is wrong. You don’t have to, but it is a known marketing benefit that can persuade potential new customers that you are the best in your business niche.
If you were in fact “wrong” and their negative feedback was justified, a good approach is to ask customers how they think you can improve their business experience.
5) Take The Opportunity to Improve Your Business
Negative feedback of your customers does, perhaps strangely, offer a unique opportunity to improve a business. While positive feedback is certainly encouraging and inspirational, negative feedback is a direct guideline that can help you improve your business. It can also have a direct result on profits. In fact, even when you don’t get feedback from customers it’s a good business strategy to look for it. You can contact customers directly, or use a social media platform to solicit feedback. The latter is an amazing tool because you can share your actions with so many people, and in this way increase your customer base, sometimes exponentially.
Another important factor to consider is that when customers aren’t satisfied, you need to give them reasons they should give you and your business another chance. You should also take the opportunity to communicate the fact that you have resolved whatever issues you had. At the end of the day, a key factor is that negative comments and reviews are less important than the way you and your company respond to the feedback.
6) Follow-Up to Show You Care
Once you have made contact with a dissatisfied customer, don’t leave it there. You need to follow-up to show that you actually do care. Contact the person – or business – to ensure that they are happy with the steps that you have taken to rectify what they thought was wrong. This will show your customers that you are committed to delivering the very best services or products.
Although it will not make you feel any better about the negative feedback you have received from customers, but it will help you to create a culture that will embrace both good and bad feedback and show that you’re in the business for the long haul.
IMPACT OF NEGATIVE CUSTOMER FEEDBACK
Negative customer feedback is what will stick if nothing is done about it. More often than not, if you respond (as discussed above) then you can turn it around, and convert it into positive engagement. Research proves this. In fact, it has been shown that when customers see positive reviews next to negative ones, positivity almost always wins over negativity.
Harris, a survey company that has operated online polls internationally for more than 45 years, tracked customers who had posted negative feedback on social networks and company websites that allow comments. Of these, 68 percent said they had received a response from the company, and 18 percent of these had subsequently become loyal customers. Further, 34 percent of these people deleted their original negative review while 33 percent posted a positive review as a result of the response they got.
1) Consumers Share Bad Experiences
A survey that looked at the vital importance of good customer service found that more people share bad consumer experiences than good ones. The survey, which involved 1,046 participants, was conducted by an independent market research firm, Dimensional Research. It found that 58 percent more customers are likely to give feedback about their experiences than they were five years ago.
The survey also found that:
- Quick customer service was important;
- 95 percent shared bad customer experiences while only 87 percent shared good experiences;
- 54 percent shared bad experiences with more than five people while only 33 percent shared their good experiences;
- 39 percent said they continued to avoid businesses for at least two years after a bad experience; only 24 percent went back to businesses to buy things for more than two years, even though their experience had been good;
- 72 percent said their negative experience included having to explain the problem they had with lots of different people.
Knowing that consumers will share bad experiences should drive your business to resolve problems as quickly as possible to minimize the negative impact in future.
2) How Bad Customer Service Experiences Harm Business
Bad customer service can do a lot of harm to any business, particularly smaller businesses that rely to a large extent on word-of-mouth referrals. Since a growing number of customers are known to share bad experiences, it follows that negative customer service experiences can alienate existing and prospecting customers. It can also have a substantial impact on the potential of the business to attract new customers.
If current customers find that service levels deteriorate, you are likely to lose them. If potential customers are faced with a bad customer service experience, as illustrated in the video above, you are likely to lose them before they start doing business with you. For instance, a new, potential customer is not likely to be forgiving if they are ignored or if employees cannot provide the information or service they expect. They are more likely to leave and go elsewhere. And it won’t stop there. As research shows, consumers who have unpleasant experiences will be very likely to share their negative experiences with family, friends, or with a multitude of people they don’t know by leaving negative feedback on social media and company websites.
If the staff turnover is high, the reason for poor customer service is a lack of training of new employees. Further, because bad customer service impacts customers and turns them away, this commonly has a direct impact on profits and can be costly for your company. For this reason, staff training and quality control of goods and services is paramount.
3) The Value of Good Customer Service
In general, customers hate bad service. They don’t like being ignored; forced to stand in long queues; left holding on automated phone lines waiting to be attended to; and the average person will get irritated or angry if confronted by rudeness.
Whether buying a product or utilizing a service, customers will do business with individuals and companies that provide a good service or product in their price range. They might not give positive feedback when customer service is good. But chances are you will develop their loyalty so that they come back and at very least mention your business to others.
Another proven factor is that customers who are unhappy about the service delivered to them are expensive. In addition to the possibility of them giving negative feedback, they are also more likely to return goods or need additional support if a service is poor. So ultimately, a good customer experience is going to help increase revenue and, therefore, improve profits in your business.
4) How Good Customer Service Helps Business Succeed
Good customer service can be one of the most powerful forms of marketing a business. It should also form a pivotal part of entrepreneurial philosophy. Remember that a business is nothing without customers. But by meeting their needs and keeping your customers happy, you can grow your business.
Communication is also a vital tool, and of course good communication is part of good customer service. Get customer service right, and you’ll be assured of positive feedback from customers as well as word-of-mouth recommendations – bearing in mind that this is one of the most powerful means of advertising.
People value sincerity, and they respond positively towards it. If you listen to your customers and deliver what they want, anticipating their needs and providing solutions to any problems they may have, you are providing a good customer service. If things go wrong, and you apologize and set things right, you’re providing a good customer service.
The bottom line is that those businesses that respond to negative feedback promptly and genuinely will benefit. Those who ignore negative feedback are likely to suffer.