In this digital world, it is perhaps more relevant today that business owners provide a prompt and “unemotionally charged” response to negative customer feedback. Customer feedback is important. It can help bring attention to areas of your business that you may not have considered as problematic. Good or bad, you can benefit from what customers are telling you. I’ve outlined a few approaches to consider in helping turn negative customer feedback into something positive for your business.
Accept the Message
Customers are emotional beings, which means they might fire off a message via email to simply let off steam. Our job as business owners is to make sure we don’t react the same way. When faced with the feedback you don’t feel good about, it can shake your confidence, but also make you feel defensive. This isn’t effective at all. As business owners, we know the first rule of customer service is “The customer is always right”.
Your customer’s feedback might be an opinion rather than a fact. Listening to their position will help you maintain your relationship. Instead of blowing up and making matters worse, consider responding in a calm, brief, and friendly manner. Consider where the feedback is coming from, while also reassuring this customer that you acknowledge them, you’re looking into the matter, and you will get back to them.
When I hear about an issue that a business owner may have with negative customer feedback, the first question I ask is, “How was the message delivered?” Typically the message is received via email, which leaves so much room for tone interpretation that very often the meaning behind the email may not be how you’ve interpreted it.
If you have another senior manager in your office you rely on, ask them to read the email and give you their opinion. Discuss the various interpretations with them and work with them in drafting a response, even if it is as simple as asking the customer to clarify what they meant. This can benefit both parties: as a company, you want to be sure you understand what their concern is, while your customer feels like you truly value their opinion and their personal experience with your business.
You might also consider booking a time to speak to your customer on the phone instead of emailing them. If that’s the route you decide to take, you can start by simply writing out what you want to say and using the notes for reference during the conversation. A personal call from you can go a long way in settling matters and getting on a better path.
Opportunity for Improved Communications
Take this as an opportunity to improve customer communications and get to know them better. Make a point to discuss with them their expectations, preferred communication styles, and then outline a few approaches to help resolve the current issue so that it will not re-occur. Book a follow-up call with them to check in on how the new communication efforts are helping. When you take what could have been a negative customer experience and reposition it as a learning opportunity, the rewards will be tenfold.
As business owners, we can never forget it takes more effort to get new customers than to retain the ones we already have. Turning negative feedback from a customer into positive is a benefit for both of you.