How to handle negative feedback from customers

Posted in Customer relationship management.

If you have been in business for any period of time there has likely been an unhappy customer or two. No matter how well you run the show negative feedback will always occur. What matters is not that you get negative feedback at all, but how you react to it.

Taking into consideration that oftentimes prospective customers will use feedback as a way to decide whether they want to do business with you or not, it is wise to make sure you know how to handle any commentary when it comes to be.

React immediately…

Even when you don’t have an immediate solution to the problem, at least give an apology and tell them of your desire to make amends. Giving a swift response, preferably within 24 hours, will ensure that the person giving the feedback doesn’t go on a rampage to spread the negative feedback elsewhere. If a client feels ignored, they will be more likely to become increasingly vocal about it.

…but don’t react without thinking about it first

This seems like contradictory advice when you take the previous point into consideration. When a negative comment from a client arises, it is easy to get hot under the collar and then want to retaliate or become defensive. If you’re riled up or angry you won’t be able to give a clear, helpful response. So, calmly think for a few minutes before responding.

Understand the concerns

Try to put yourself in the client’s shoes. We are all customers in some way or another so this shouldn’t be too difficult. Delve into the exact reasons for their negative feedback. Even if they do not give you specific or supporting reasons for their commentary, you need to look into what triggered their negative feelings -— was it a specific event or the accumulation of a series of interactions? If you know the origin of the complaint, you will be better equipped to handle it efficiently.

See it as an opportunity to improve

Sometimes you may not know there is a problem in your business until someone complains. Negative feedback is never pleasant, but this is better than losing customers without knowing the reason why. If you see many complaints following the same vein you know there is a need that is not being fulfilled.

Make it public

If you have seen a lot of complaints that are similar and have fixed it appropriately then make it known that you have done so. If it is a fix that is likely to make a lot of people happy, send out an email to say that you have listened to your customers and here is how you have improved. This will show your customers that you appreciate their feedback and react quickly to any complaints. At the same time remind people how they can leave feedback, should they feel the need to. This creates an element of trust, a quality that is important in any client relationship.

Be genuine

Customers can easily sense disingenuous behaviour from a company and this can lead to, you guessed it, a loss of trust. One of the ways in which companies seem insincere is commenting: “We’re sorry that you feel that way”. This makes it seem like the company is pushing the blame on the customer and making them feel like their expectations were too high instead of taking responsibility for the problem. Give an honest apology and then a promise to make a concerted effort to solve the issue.

Take action

It is one thing to reply that you will solve the problem and something completely different to actually solve it. There are many companies who make promises in public or out loud that they have no intention of following through on. If you do solve an issue, let the customer know and then ask whether they are satisfied with the result. The complaint has not been finalised until the customer is happy.