How to respond to negative customer feedback

Henkilö pohtimassa tietokoneen ja kännykän ääressä kuinka vastata asiakaspalautteisiin

Improving customer experience is important for both business development and growth. Before you can improve customer experience, you have to understand what your customers want and how you can serve them better. However, asking for feedback exposes your business to critique. And even though I’ve already written about why negative feedback is positive, receiving and handling it isn’t always easy.

Collecting feedback and making use of it, are of course an essential part of customer experience improvement. But it’s also important to pay attention to how to respond to the feedback. By giving feedback, a customer is also giving you an opportunity to fix the situation. Converting even an unsatisfied customer into a loyal customer is possible, if their feedback is responded quickly and appropriately.

When measuring customer experience, you should always give an opportunity to give open feedback and ask for specifications and explanations for NPS-type feedback. When giving feedback is made easy, it is actually given. The mere knowledge of customers being satisfied or dissatisfied isn’t enough to develop customer experience, so the more detailed feedback the better. But when possible, you should also enable responding to feedback for example by asking for contact information.

Negative customer feedback should be dealt quickly and at once

The best and most effective way to encounter a negative customer is by contacting them quickly. According to a study, 69% of the respondents say that speed is the most important factor when determining good customer service, even when the problem itself isn’t solved. Customers want to be heard regardless of whether the matter at hand can be dealt with. By reacting quickly, you can also prevent WOM (word-of-mouth) effect, meaning that the bad customer experience won’t spread in social media or end up in review services (like TripAdvisor or Google reviews).

When contacting customer service e.g. for complaints, what annoys the customers the most is having to explain the problem to several people. According to the same study, 72% of the respondents felt this to influence their experience of the customer service the most negatively. Therefore, it’s important to plan the handling of customer feedback in a way that the customer doesn’t have to repeat their experience several times, instead the matter is handled by the same person from start to finish.

Validate your customer’s experience by apologising

It’s important also to apologise the customer’s negative experience. Surprisingly often, I’ve noticed that the customer doesn’t receive an apology, regardless of whether the matter can be dealt with or not. Apologising is a very simple way to validate your customer’s experience and the response doesn’t sound like an empty explanation but an actual regret over what happened. It doesn’t matter whether the customer or the company itself is at fault, it’s irrelevant to look for culprits or explanations but instead focus on finding the solution. Be it a compensation, reimbursement, change in practices or just a promise to take things further, the customer should feel like they’ve been heard, that their feedback is important and that what happened won’t happen again.

Customer feedback should be embraced with an open mind and make feedback acknowledgement a part of the organisational culture. Negative feedback is always an opportunity to improve and it shouldn’t be taken personally. By reacting quickly and directly, discontentment can be converted into to satisfaction and turn a detractor into a promoter.