For the most part, businesses put in maximum effort when it comes to providing a good service. That’s one of the reasons negative feedback can sting.
It’s one thing if you know that you haven’t put in your best efforts to please customers, but when you truly believe that you’re working as hard as you possibly can, negative customer feedback can feel like a severe blow. It can also feel unfair — especially in situations in which you feel that you’ve delivered the service asked of you and may have gone above and beyond, or be facing unfair customer demands.
But negative feedback is no reason to turn a negative situation even worse. Ignoring feedback will highlight that you are unwilling to listen, and may suggest that you have no response to the complaints in question (either because you can’t defend your actions or because you have no interest in doing so.)
Firing back with a negative message of your own will meanwhile worsen relations with the former customer in question. Sure, they may not be likely to rush back to you in a hurry, but compounding their experience with an ill-considered response is just about the worst thing you can do.
So how should you respond to negative feedback? From reactive measures like acknowledging their experience to proactive measures focused on metrics like Customer Effort Score, here are three important factors to remember.
#1. Acknowledge The Complaint Quickly And Directly
A complaint is never a good thing. But by reaching out to you a customer is at least opening a window that could allow you to make things right.
Whatever the complaint, acknowledge the feedback in a prompt manner to make clear that you care about the input. Regardless of whether the complaint has validity, consider it a professional imperative to respond rapidly, within 24 hours at least. This tells the customer that you’re doing what you can to retain their business. (You should seek to respond to positive feedback within the same time window as well, even if it is less urgent in terms of not potentially costing you a future customer.)
Your response should be respectful and not defensive or angry, even in cases where you believe that you are in the right. A good technique for making customers feel listened to is to restate the issue that they have raised in your own words. You should do this prior to suggesting any solution. A customer may assume that you will try and disagree with their complaint, so restating it upfront can help turn the tide in what might otherwise be a hostile interaction.
#2. Get Specific
Bad customer feedback isn’t what you’re hoping for as a business. But it can, in many cases, help you by letting you know when a particular customer journey hasn’t gone according to plan. However, for this feedback to be helpful, you need to drill down on specifics, not generalities.
This should be done carefully: You don’t want a customer to feel like you’re trying to catch them out as if they’re on trial and you’re the lead prosecutor. But asking for specifics, and explaining that this will help you rectify the problem in future, can move the conversation out of generalities and into productive feedback.
Was there an issue with a wait time? Was a particular part of the interaction the problem? To standardize feedback, and use it for more than just responding to complaints but instead making it a core part of your business, consider metrics like Customer Effort Score. Often abbreviated to CES, Customer Effort Score measures customers’ experience with a product or service, along with their overall interaction with a business.
It does this by asking them to rank their experience on a scale that ranges from “Very Easy” to “Very Difficult.” In all cases, the purpose of drilling down on this information is to make it usable in the future — and not just a broad complaint you can’t do anything about.
#3. Make It Right
You may have lost a customer by the time you get a complaint. But you might be able to persuade them to give you another chance as well. Think of acknowledging the feedback as being the line that gets a departing customer to pause and give you a few more seconds to win them over.
You, therefore, need to offer them some kind of solution that could convince them not to leave on bad terms. What that is — a voucher, an upgrade, a free month’s membership — will vary depending on your business. Whatever it is, however, you should present it in a positive manner that encourages the customer to give you another go, thereby allowing you a second chance to make a good impression.
Perhaps the customer will take your offer and leave anyway afterward. Perhaps they’ll be impressed enough to hang around. Whichever result you get, at least you’ll know that you did everything you could.
Your response to negative customer feedback should be respectful and not defensive or angry when you believe that you are in the right. You should do this before suggesting any solution. A customer may assume that you will try and disagree with their complaint, so restating it upfront can help turn the tide in what might otherwise be a hostile interaction.