You know that price and product quality is not enough to win customer loyalty today. Their positive experience at all levels of the sales funnel is what matters: 86% of buyers are ready to pay more for it.
And, as you know, customer experience is overly dependent on how your brand communicates with them at every touchpoint.
Given that people don’t trust ads but feedback from other customers when deciding whether to buy from a brand, you might want to focus on publishing and replying to positive reviews only. But no matter how hard you try to please customers, negative feedback will happen anyway.
More than that:
- Only one in ten happy customers will leave a positive review, while customers with a negative experience are twice or three times more likely to tell about it online.
- Many people are skeptical about positive reviews, considering them potentially fake: When researching your business, 89% of them will read negative reviews about it and your response to them.
Yes, negative feedback is painful. Not only does it take nerves, but it also can make 82% of prospects quit doing business with you.
But here goes the good news:
When Negative Feedback Is Not That Bad
Far from all negative reviews come from so-called internet trolls. If you see that a complaint is rational, it’s a chance not only to respond and turn this angry customer into a happy one but also to see what’s going wrong in your business.
For example, a complaining user has reported a system error or some bugs that went unnoticed. Or, one of your project collaboration tools malfunctions; or, some of your customer service agents need more training to improve communication skills.
Long story short, negative yet rational feedback from customers helps you spot problems and fix them to prevent further complaints. It’s an opportunity for you to grow.
What to Do With Negative Feedback from Customers
First and foremost, don’t ignore it. While some brands work hard to delete negative comments to save face, such tactics do more harm than good. In today’s digital era, customer feedback is a powerful weapon able to destroy your brand reputation:
Once the online community finds out that you delete or hide negative reviews, they can blast your social media pages with even more backlash.
The trick here isn’t to hide but respond accordingly and address customer concerns so they would have a reason to come back to your brand again.
1) Respond ASAP
According to surveys, customers are ready to wait for about an hour when it comes to responses on social media. When speaking about call centers, the maximum waiting time is 28 seconds. So the sooner you provide them with feedback to their comments, the better.
As far as you understand, the longer they have to wait, the angrier they’ll get: Disappointed and unsatisfied with your brand communication, such customers go and write negative reviews everywhere they can. It doesn’t matter whether these are Flatiron school reviews or Amazon business reviews. Negative reviews, if not handled timely, can equally hit any size business.
83% of complainers admit they like and wait for brands to follow up with a response or apology; otherwise, most of them are ready to abandon a brand they love after one or the few negative experiences.
2) Respond Publicly First, Go Private Afterward
Customers can share feedback wherever they find it relevant: via phone, on your websites, in social media groups or online communities, under your Facebook ads, at your business pages on social media, etc. Your task is to monitor your brand mentions and react accordingly.
When it comes to public complaints, make sure to respond publicly before taking those conversations private.
- First, it will show others that you don’t ignore negative feedback and that you are open to communication.
- Second, it will help you control the situation: An angry customer sees that you are here, and you’ll therefore prevent further negativity from their side.
After you’ve responded to a public complaint, feel free to contact a complainer via email or messengers and sift a question to the bottom.
3) Listen, Reflect, Sympathize
Read or listen to customer feedback carefully. If talking to a customer by phone, don’t interrupt and don’t hurry up to answer: Give them time to express concerns.
Then, please do your best to let them know you are on the same wave: Mirror what they say so they would feel heard and understood. Show your empathy and willingness to help. Customers should feel that you are on their side, even if you can’t do anything with their complaint:
Feel free to ask questions or elaborate details: It will let customers know you take their concern and look for a solution. But write or speak like a human, not a robot! Remember about your brand tone of voice but avoid complex sentences, professional slang, or citing walls of text from tutorials. It doesn’t help but frustrate angry customers even more.
4) Fix the Problem
Often, negative feedback happens because of misunderstanding. What you need to do here is go straight to the point of the issue to understand its source. It will help to reveal a communication gap and find compelling arguments for your response.
Overcommunicating all the gaps so the customer would know where you went wrong, do your best to fix the problem. There’s no need to go too far with excuses (You’ve already done it at the beginning of your conversation, haven’t you?); instead, offer the options to solve the problem: a refund, a free month of service, a discount, or any other relevant decision.
The trick here is to phrase it right. Instead of “We can do X, does it work for you,” just do it and ask, “Is there anything else I can do to help you?”
5) Stay in Contact
Even if you still don’t have any updates or solutions to offended customers’ problems, communicate with them anyway to show that you care.
Please provide them with hourly updates, remind them that you’re actively working on the solution, offer some alternative options while they are waiting, etc.
It’s not the lack of solutions that frustrates customers most. They get angry when being ignored; so, stay in contact with customers after the initial problem to make them trust your brand.
How to Turn It into Positive Customer Experience
If you develop the principles of communicating with angry customers and follow the above steps, you’ll see that complainants return to their original feedback with a “thank you.” Customers appreciate healthy communication from brands, so they value your efforts to help; moreover, big chances are they’ll start advocating your brand after your feedback on their negative reviews.
But your work is not over after you’ve converted an angry customer into a happy one.
Do you know that 96% of unhappy customers don’t complain, and 91% of those will simply leave? So if one customer tells you about a problem, you can only imagine how many more could experience the same issue but keep silent!
That said, you might want to pay attention to each complaint, analyze that negative feedback, and think about what you can change or improve in your brand to cultivate positive customer experience.
More than that, don’t hesitate to ask customers for feedback. You never know unless you ask, right?
1) Document negative feedback
Collect feedback and write down every complaint you get to analyze them weekly or monthly and see which are more systematic than others. It will help to reveal where your business needs work and address those issues before things get worse.
For that, monitor your brand mentions, analyze backlinks and reviews from angry customers, and get together all your department heads (Marketing, Communications, Operations, Customer Support) at the end of a month to discuss the situation. Work through each complaint to identify which are random and which are systematic, and make a plan for what to do with that.
2) Have a plan
What will you do in case everything goes wrong, and your business gets bombarded with negative feedback? Are your communication managers and customer support team ready to navigate a situation? Do you have a corresponding software and social media tools to monitor everything and react swiftly?
It would help if you had a clear plan (or even a tutorial) on how to work with negative feedback and avoid collapses in your brand interactions.
Case in point: Slack
On November 23, 2015, the platform stopped working. It went down. Nothing. Darkness. Panicked users came to Twitter and bombarded it with tons of messages, complaining or joking at the situation. However, it couldn’t prevent Slack from gaining 3,000+ new followers that day!
The entire team of Slack went to Twitter and sent out 2,300 messages to those users in about ten minutes. That wasn’t an accident but a previously-developed plan on what to do in case of disaster.
In a Word
No matter how hard you try to please customers, negative feedback will happen anyway. The good news is that your business not only can turn it into positive customer experience but also use it for brand growth and distinguishing it from competitors.
Never ignore negative feedback. Develop the principles of responding to angry customers, analyze their complaints, and use them as hints to see what’s going wrong in your business that needs improvements.
Angry customers will turn into happy ones if you respond to their concerns and fix the problems. The way your brand communicates and reacts to negative feedback will determine what users say about it afterward.
So, listen to your unhappy customers, let them know you care, manage their feedback, and do your best to turn every complaint into the opportunity to minimize future negativity and drive effective changes for your business.
Andrej Fedek is a digital marketer. He recently started his own blog about digital marketing called InterCool Studio. His passion is to help startups grow and thrive in a competitive environment.