Topic(s): Customer Centricity

Why Negative Feedback is a Positive Thing

Bill Gates once said "Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning". We couldn't agree more. Imagine if Gates never asked his customers for feedback, do you think Microsoft would have become the iconic brand it is today? 

Getting customer feedback over and over again is a crucial part of growth and success in a business. That doesn't need to be complicated. We created a customer intelligence platform that allows you to ask for your customers' feedback and analyze their responses afterwards, so companies can make informed decisions on investment priorities.

Complaints are a gift!

Asking your customers for feedback means that you'll have to deal with negative feedback and criticism. Don't fear negative feedback, it's worth its weight in gold: it'll help you to get right to the root of the problem and address it. Research showed that a 5% increase in customer retention can yield from a 25% to 100% improvement in profits.

However, businesses rarely get that chance. Lots of unsatisfied customers never tell the brand about their bad experience. They just run off and never come back. And for every customer that gave negative feedback, there are 26 other unhappy customers that remain silent. If you know that dissatisfied customers tell 9-15 people about their bad experience, you'll realize how important a follow up is.

How not to deal with negative feedback

According to Bain & Co, 83% of complainants that received a reply to their message on Social Media, liked the fact that the company responded. And what's even more important: 88% of consumers are less likely to buy from companies that leave complaints unanswered.

When responding to negative feedback, never offer your unsatisfied customer a coupon for the next purchase. That won't solve the actual problem. What's more: giving coupons as a solution might suggest that you just want to solve the problem on a short term and that you have no interest in investing in a customer relationship.

Ignoring the complaint is another strategy that's often applied. In the US about 70% of companies ignore customer complaints on Twitter. That's a lot and to be honest, ignoring complaints on social media is no better solution than giving a coupon. A message on social media is easy to post, everyone can do it, it's free and it's there for everyone to see. But also direct messages or any other kind of customer feedback should be followed up correctly: 9 out of 10 consumers expect to receive a consistent experience over multiple contact channels.

What to do instead

1. Identify the type of feedback

To guarantee the right solution, make sure you've identified the type of feedback you've received. Your reaction will be different for every type of feedback. Always focus on making concrete and long lasting improvements. It's definitely not the aim to offer a solution that won't last longer than one week.

  • Service or product issues: your customer has an issue with the product he or she bought or with the service they've got. Their message describes the problem.
  • Constructive criticism: a bit similar to the first category, only here the customer gives a suggestion on how to approve a negative experience. 

There first two types of feedback help you to improve the product or service you're offering. Always let the complainant know that you've received the feedback and that you will get back with a solution as soon as possible. Reach out to the team responsible: is it a product issue? Contact the manufacturer. 

  • Merited attack: your customer had a bad experience and is angry.
  • Trolling / spam: trolls or spammers have no particular reason to be angry. Spammers for example will just use negative comments about your organization to promote a competing service.

For the third type of feedback the same rules as for the first two types apply. Only here it's extremely important to remain calm. Your customer might have used offensive language, don't do that yourself. Offer them the best solution possible. As for the forth type, don't give them too much attention, that's all they want. Remember this: don't feed the trolls.

2. Don't jump the gun

Before you start looking for a solution, an excuse or someone to blame, listen carefully. Make sure you completely understand the situation. Ask questions. Trying to solve the problem without knowing the exact situation, might result in an incapable solution.

3. Treat your angry customers like allies

That starts with thanking them for taking the time to help improve your service. Be kind and don't say or do things you won't appreciate someone saying / doing to you. Violence never solved a thing.

4. Never take a complaint personally

When receiving a negative reaction on Facebook you might feel personally attacked. There's no reason to do that. The customer had a negative experience and he or she is telling you about it. And we admit, sometimes they'd better used other words to express their dissatisfaction. But that doesn't mean that you should answer using the same negative language. Even if the reaction blackens you or your company, stay calm and polite.

5. It's not your customers fault

Whatever happens, never blame your customers. It's not their fault. Tesco for example reduced the use of pesticides for their fruits and vegetables because their customers don't like it. Ever since, a number of spiders (some of them deadly!) have been turning up unexpectedly in people's fruit and vegetables. Tesco blamed it's customers because they don't like pesticides: downside of using less pesticides is that there's a greater chance of insects surviving in crops.

It all starts with a conversation with your customers.