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Turning a negative into a positive: How to respond to poor customer feedback

We all like to receive feedback. But what happens when that feedback is less than complimentary?

All businesses (and certainly customer service departments) receive their fair share of negative feedback, but the worst thing to do is to ignore it. Whatever business you are in, given the customer-centric nature of business today, it’s worth embracing negative feedback. It can be a powerful tool for self-analysis, which will ultimately help optimise your day-to-day workflow and help towards improving the business as a whole.

Perhaps not surprisingly, though, negative feedback is valuable for a number of reasons, most of which are difficult to see while you’re in the moment of receiving it.

Our recent report, ‘Converting customer experience into revenue’, reveals that over 30 per cent of consumers have given negative feedback to a business before. More interestingly, however, is how the right response can actually drive loyalty – 31 per cent also said that they would be more likely to be loyal to a business that followed up on their negative feedback.

Many organisations have introduced sophisticated 'voice of the customer' programmes, but how many actually listen to and take action on the customer intelligence gathered?

Listening to the customer – and letting them know that their voice has been heard – is one of the most straightforward routes to ROI. In fact, even negative feedback can represent an opportunity to sell. One in three customers say they are more likely to be loyal to a business that followed up on negative feedback.

Why is it valuable?

Customer loyalty can be elusive, but it is important in order to run a successful business. In today’s digital world, there are thousands of independent forums, price comparison websites, and social media platforms for customers to vent their frustrations and complain, as well as to find a competitor.

If handled properly, negative feedback can not only become an opportunity to drive loyalty, it can bring a strong sense of awareness of how your business presents itself. This will help your business avoid repeat failure and land more wins than losses. Taking on board what you’ve learned and adapting to should always lead to driving greater loyalty, growth and success, helping to create a business that’s based on the needs of your customers rather than your assumptions about the market.

How should you respond?

People can really sniff out a sarcastic tone, even via email or chat. When responding to customers, individuals are representing more than just themselves – they’re representing the company. That should not only dictate how they communicate, but it’s also key to understanding that customer issues are not directed at them.

A quick response is important, but your customers are much more likely to remember you if you deliver an excellent service to solve their problem than compared to a fast response just to close a query off. In doing so, the next time your customer talks about your business, this will be the message they communicate most.

Feedback – positive or negative – is one of the most powerful assets you have, especially in the customer service department where technology and techniques are changing and developing all the time. Learning how to use it to your advantage can help propel your work, and your employees work to a higher level.

David Ford, Managing Director, Magnetic North