How to Deal With Negative Feedback from Customers

How to Deal With Negative Feedback from CustomersAs I sip my morning coffee this morning, I am imagining the oldest known written complaint in the history – Complaint tablet to Ea-nasir. I imagine Nanni fuming and Ea-nasir going about his business.  I bet Nanni gave her messenger the instruction to read the tablet to Ea-nasir and then slam him over the head with it. But seriously, Ea-nasir was probably dealing with the same dilemma you are — how to respond to negative feedback from customers.  He already knows that Nanni has probably told the entire village and sullied his name.  He has to respond! So let’s imagine that Ea-nasir lived in the 21st century.  That complaint carved on the tablet — that would be the INTERNET — around for ever and ever.  And worse, it doesn’t take as long to flame a business as it does to carve a tablet.  So he might be getting a lot of these messages from unhappy customers.  How should he you respond to negative feedback from customers?

  1. Stop making it about you!  This is the first and most difficult step.  I always say “How is it not about me, if they are screaming and using my name in a sentence?!”  Well, it’s NOT about you.  It’s actually about THEM.  In the simplest terms, they wanted or expected one thing and got something completely different.  It’s about THEM and not YOU.
  2. Decide to be curious:  Yes, there is a difference. But don’t forget the most important step — DECIDE.  Before you get into any conversation with your customer, you have to DECIDE a couple of things.  First, decide that who you are going to BE in this conversation is CURIOUS.  You’ve already realized that this isn’t about YOU, it’s about THEM.  So now, decide that you’re going to be CURIOUS about what they wanted as an experience and what they GOT.  This requires listening FOR what matters to them.
  3. Listen FOR — and not just TO:  Listening TO someone is basically in one ear and out the other. Listening FOR what matters means you are listening for a tone of voice, watching body language (if possible) getting to the root of what matters to THEM.  There is profit gold in these conversations if you are willing to get over yourself, give up being right and focusing on your customer.

You’re probably shocked that there are only three things on this list.  But get this — this is really all there is to how to deal with negative feedback from customers. If you do these three things — the next action to take will be OBVIOUS to you.  And the result….

The Best Referrals Come From Angry Customers

Let me guess.  Whenever you get a customer complaint the voice inside your head says all kinds of wonderful things, which I can’t begin to share on a public site like this.  You’re calling the customer names, you might even be calling yourself names, but if you stay in that mad, angry, defensive place you’re missing out on the best part.

Every angry customer is an opportunity for massive referrals, so you just have to put in place critical mechanics for detractor recovery.

Yes, a dissatisfied customer who is given the opportunity to actually share their experience in a way that you can understand it is absolutely priceless!  It’s better than any customer satisfaction survey because they are going to openly share their experience with competitors, where they are better than you, what they do differently and they will also tell you exactly what they want YOU to do.

You can’t PAY for this kind of gold!  So don’t waste the negative feedback from customers. The next time you get negative feedback from customers — embrace it, be curious, listen “for” and enjoy the gold that passionate feedback gives.  Remember it’s NOT ABOUT YOU.

Finding a silver lining with customers

It is an absolute necessity to invest the time developing a process that closes the circle with the customer. This will not only improve customer satisfaction and loyalty to your brand, it can also provide a clear competitive advantage. If a customer uses his or her time to inform you of a good experience or a bad one, be polite and thank them for the opportunity to improve.