Oliver Stasinszky is an outreach team lead at http://www.liveagent.com, with an e-commerce and customer service background. He is passionate about writing, reading, and learning how to play any musical instrument he comes across.
When you do everything by the book, focus on bringing your products and services to perfection, and prioritize customer satisfaction above all else, it’s only natural to expect your customers to appreciate your efforts. Unfortunately, that's not always the case.
Regardless of what you do, you’ll encounter negative comments even from your most loyal customers sooner or later. Perhaps you’ll have a slip-up that affects the customer experience, or maybe you hire an inexperienced staff member who is unsure how to solve the most inconsequential issues. It’s even possible for a customer to simply have a bad day and take it out on your business.
It is imperative to be prepared for whatever may happen. But, more importantly, you must learn how to transform negative comments into positive feedback. So, let’s see what you can do about that.
What is negative feedback?
At first glance, negative feedback seems like a pretty straightforward concept. A customer isn’t satisfied with the products and services you’ve provided, or they’re not happy with the overall experience, so they leave a public complaint on your social media or Google business page, a forum, or even a third-party review site.
While these are certainly some of the most common scenarios, oftentimes negative reviews can be somewhat odd.
For instance, take a look at this hammock-style cat bed review from Amazon:
The manufacturer doesn't appear to have done anything wrong here. They delivered a functional product with a return window to ensure customer satisfaction. Despite their best efforts, the cat didn’t enjoy the bed. Cats do what they want.
Another technically negative review comes from a small convenience store in Australia:
While the customer seemed satisfied, the one-star review certainly affected the store’s overall rating.
How about this 2-star review for a weighted blanket?
Though the implication is that the blankets might be worth the hefty price tag, the bad review was triggered by the company’s generosity.
As these examples demonstrate, negative feedback is not always explicit - it can often be implicit feelings customers express about the quality or lack thereof of the products and services offered. Occasionally, customers and businesses may encounter strange or incomprehensible situations due to miscommunication or misunderstandings. No matter the type of negative feedback a company receives, unresolved issues can negatively impact its reputation.
What is important to remember when receiving negative feedback?
Considering that it’s just a matter of time before you receive a negative comment, preparing in advance is crucial. Otherwise, you risk making mistakes in handling the situation, bringing your reputation down further.
Here are some of the main dos and don’ts when encountering negative feedback.
Receiving negative feedback on your website or through your customer service software can be rather jarring. The key to ensuring a successful outcome is not to panic.
Whether your company makes a horrendous mistake or a customer is just looking for a place to vent, you must be calm and collected. Additionally, you must teach your customer support agents and customer-facing teams to remember to react calmly as well.
Breathe and don’t rush to react
Though responding to any kind of positive or negative comment as quickly as possible is vital, that doesn’t mean you should reply as soon as you’ve read it. Instead, give yourself a moment to take in the feedback. Make sure you fully understand what the customer is saying before putting together your response. Reading the feedback a few times will help you ensure you understand it well.
Rushing to respond can result in you overlooking critical information and further aggravating the customer. Moreover, if your response is public, you risk making your business look even worse.
Slow and steady wins the race, so approach negative comments thoughtfully and methodically.
Don’t argue with the customer
Ideally, most of your customers will be polite and patient when making a complaint. However, in all likelihood, you’ll come across rude people more often than not. Some customers will complain about the product, and some will be angry about the service they received. Many will even start attacking you or your staff members personally, making mean and rude remarks that are unacceptable.
Still, whatever happens, you must ensure everyone interacting with the customers is always professional and respectful. Use your process library to store relevant training materials your staff members can access to remind themselves how to approach negative and even rude feedback.
There’s no reason to argue with anyone. You can attempt to solve the problem, address the customer’s concerns, and even remind them to be respectful. However, you should never argue.
It’s impossible to please everyone
As you’ve seen from the complaint examples above, and as you’ve likely learned from experience, it’s impossible to please everyone. You could have the best, most customer-centric business in the world and do everything possible to provide an unmatched customer experience, but you’ll still encounter negative feedback.
You’ll have to accept it as part of the job description.
However, do what you can to improve your products and services, streamline the buyer’s journey, and ensure positive consumer interactions. Take all negative feedback as constructive criticism and use it to improve your operations.
Keep the reviews online
While it seems counterintuitive, you should avoid deleting negative reviews at all costs. They might drive away a small fraction of your target audience, but they can actually help your business in the long run.
Primarily, your customers’ reviews, including negative ones, help paint a more detailed picture of your business. Your target audience will see where your company shines from the positive reviews, but they’ll also get a chance to learn how you handle issues and complaints by examining the negative reviews.
Secondly, a few negative comments can make your business seem more reliable. It would be suspicious if all you had were swimmingly positive reviews and five-star comments. Potential customers will wonder if you are creating fake reviews or paying for positive comments. A negative review here and there adds a touch of realism, which makes your company more trustworthy.
How to turn negative comments into positive feedback
Now that you’re aware of some of the most critical things to remember when receiving negative feedback, it’s time to learn how to spin it into something positive for your company.
Show how your business emphasizes customer satisfaction
Negative comments are the perfect opportunity to highlight how dedicated you are to ensuring customer satisfaction. There are two specific ways you can achieve this:
- Using the right tone of voice
- Having excellent response times
Tone of voice refers to how you approach all comments, not just negative ones. It’s closely connected to your overall brand persona and should always stay consistent.
If your brand is highly formal and technical, your responses to positive and negative feedback should remain formal and technical, whether the customer is rude or not. The same goes if your brand is youthful, playful, energetic, or even witty and sarcastic.
Remain professional, never argue with or insult your clients, but stay true to your brand persona.
The second part of the equation is excellent response times. As stated, you don’t want to rush your responses – you want to think them through. However, you also shouldn’t leave your customers hanging.
As a general rule of thumb, you should strive to respond to negative comments within 24 hours, though the precise times will vary based on the platform you’re using to communicate. On social media, for instance, over 20% of your customers will expect you to respond immediately, while 24% will give you about an hour.
Apart from being active on top platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, companies should also explore other social media platforms, such as Instagram, Pinterest, or Whatsapp, for customer service. It has become more and more common for customers to use these channels to interact with brands. Regardless of your business's platform, ensure you can promptly address customer inquiries so that customers remain happy and loyal long-term.
Correct mistakes and advertise changes
Most people will be defensive when they receive negative feedback – it’s human nature. However, being defensive isn’t the best course of action, especially if your business is at fault. You’ll receive terrible reviews even from loyal customers if they are genuinely unhappy with something you've done.
In this instance, don’t make excuses. It doesn’t matter if something happened that’s out of your control or if you have a valid reason for failing to meet a specific customer’s expectations. Address the mistake, apologize, and see if there’s something you can do to ensure it doesn’t happen again.
If there is something you can do, make the necessary changes and promote them. Let your customers and leads know that you’re listening to them and doing everything you can to improve their experiences with your brand.
Reach out to the customer if needed
At times, it’s enough to simply respond to a negative comment directly on the platform it was posted on – whether it’s your website, third-party site, social media, or any other. However, often times it is necessary to contact the customer directly.
After all, most negative comments aren’t an attack on your company that comes out of the blue – they’re requests for help. Therefore, your goal when handling them shouldn’t be to paint your company in a positive light for others who might be reading your exchanges but rather to assist the customer and try to improve their experience.
For good measure, you should still leave a public response such as “we’ve sent you a private message to learn more about the issues you’ve encountered” to show others that you don’t simply ignore customer complaints.
Use negative reviews to enhance your website
Positive reviews are the ideal type of user-generated content to help you provide the social proof your leads need to become customers. However, that doesn’t mean you cannot use negative reviews to enhance your website.
Negative comments are often much more insightful than positive ones, highlighting the key things you should improve. For example, perhaps the customer wouldn’t be so dissatisfied if you had more comprehensive FAQ pages they could’ve used or if your product pages were more detailed.
Carefully read through all the negative comments you receive to identify which parts of your website must be made more informative, transparent, and valuable for your customers.
Turn negative feedback into insightful learning experiences
The final way to turn negatives into positives is to learn how to turn bad reviews into insightful learning experiences for yourself and your customers.
That means you can gather the information from your negative feedback to create detailed, helpful content such as relevant newsletters, insightful eBooks and tutorial videos, comprehensive knowledge bases, guides, blog posts, and more.
It will help improve the overall customer experience and make your brand stand out from the competitors, while boosting your content marketing.
Evidence indicates that negative feedback isn't always problematic. Instead, it’s an opportunity. It allows you to improve your internal processes, enhance your products and services, and show your audience how much you value their insights.
The key is approaching your negative feedback the right way.
So, remember not to panic and argue. Stay professional, address your customers’ concerns, and answer each bad review thoughtfully and methodically.
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