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How to Handle Negative Customer Feedback

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Anna Howley

Whether you’re a child, a performer or a CEO, no one likes hearing negative feedback. So much so that many people will do everything possible to avoid situations where they may be criticised. So, it’s no wonder that many companies are missing out on valuable online opportunities while their marketing managers, or owners, cower from the fear of negative online feedback.

In a perfect world, every business would be so well organized and service oriented, clients and customers would only ever give positive feedback. But the truth is that we don’t live in a perfect world. So, no matter what industry you are in, how much you try to please and how much you avoid confrontation you will get negative customer feedback at some stage.

The good news is that there are proven ways to handle negative customer feedback and even turn those grumblings into a positive brand experience.


Turning Negative Feedback into Positive Engagement

Here are our top 5 ways to turn negative feedback into positive engagement…

1) Assess the problem

To better assess a customer’s complaint, you need to understand the trigger.

The negative feedback you receive might simply state that the products sold are sub-standard. To uncover the trigger, you need to ask for more information about the fault or rationale behind their assessment. In an online environment, this is best done by asking the customer to private message or email you their contact details (or the details of their concern). The goal being not only to learn more, but also to move the conversation away from the public arena.

Never ignore negative feedback. If you do, there’s a good chance you’ll find another customer giving similar negative feedback in future. Evaluating and addressing the initial feedback allows you to do something about the source of the problem, and either prevent it happening again or understand why people react negatively.

2) Respond immediately, but don’t react

While it is essential to respond quickly, it is equally important not to react defensively. The best way to do this is to take a moment to compose yourself and respond in an objective way.

Don’t wait days, but do wait until you have absorbed what has been said and determined how fair the criticism is.

If possible, it can be a good idea to continue the dialogue with the dissatisfied customer over the phone or via email, as your comments will be relatively private. If you are responding via social media, then be aware that other people will see your comments.

3) Respond sincerely, respectfully, and thankfully

Whatever you decide to say, make sure that your response is respectful and sincere.

Thank them for the feedback, even if it is awful. It might be difficult, but if you respect your customers and deal with them in a polite and appreciative manner, you will ultimately benefit.

If you were in the “wrong”, a good approach is to ask customers how they think you can improve their business experience and try to demonstrate that you are taking the feedback on board.

You will find it is worth the time and effort since you can use this as an invaluable tool to identify room for improvement while also boosting customer retention and support.

4) Correct Customers if Their Feedback is Wrong

Sometimes it even pays to rectify a situation, even when a customer is wrong. You don’t have to, but it has known marketing benefits to do this.

However, there are some situations when customers aren’t right, or reasonable. In this situation, you have every right to correct them. But first you need to assess the situation objectively.
Customers can make unfounded comments about your business. They can seem to be stirring trouble and making public negative comments simply for the fun of it. These types of customers are often referred to as ‘Trolls’.

In most cases, it’s best to ignore Trolls, as they thrive off of interactions with those that they are trying to bully. But there is another tactic that can be used.

Wendy’s (the fast food chain) used this alternative technique in December last year.

It started with a Tweet from Wendy’s where they were assuring customers that their beef was ‘too cool’ to ever be frozen (they used fresh meat in their burgers).

A Twitter user named Thuggy-D and another called @NHride replied, claiming to speak for public – stating that they knew the beef was frozen.

Wendy’s politely replied, correcting the Tweeps by informing them that the chain’s restaurants have used fresh beef since Wendy’s was founded in 1969.

When Thuggy-D responded questioning if they delivered their beef hot off the truck, the brand saw the opportunity to take advantage of this ‘Trolls’ oversight, with a sarcastic question of their own.

@NHride Where do you store cold things that aren’t frozen?”

When the ‘Troll’ responded by saying the chain should give up and praising McDonalds, Wendy’s responded with a brilliant ‘burn’ which led to the ‘Troll’ account’s demise and over 25,600 likes from other amused Twitter followers.

This example illustrates a brand who addressed negativity by following all the rules. However, when the opportunity arose from Wendy’s to use their casual, fun brand voice to silence the negative commenter, they took it. This dialogue, on a public platform, was effective in fortifying the company’s integrity, their voice and product quality even more than it could have without @NHride.

5) Follow-up, to show you care

Once you have contacted a dissatisfied customer, don’t leave it there. Be sure to follow-up to show that you do actually care.

Contact the person – or business – to ensure that they are happy with the steps that you have taken to rectify what they thought was wrong. This will show your customers that you are committed to delivering the very best services or products.

Negative feedback isn’t always easy to deal with, but if you’re being given negative feedback, then you also have evidence that customers think that you worthwhile engaging with you. If they didn’t care, or it didn’t matter, they wouldn’t bother.

If you would like assistance putting in place a social media marketing crisis plan, contact the friendly Xplore team today… we’d also love to hear any feedback you have (good or bad).










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