Customer Negative Feedback

“You’ve got to want to be in this incredible feedback loop where you get the world-class people to tell you what you’re doing wrong.” – Bill Gates

When you run a business, feedback becomes an indispensable part whether you ask for it or not. If customers are satisfied they may not say so often, but if they are miffed by something you did, almost always they would have something uncomplimentary to say. Customer negative feedback though is not always a bad thing. It is up to the company to learn or not learn from it. The fact of life is that everyone makes mistakes and those who learn from them improve and move forward. In business too customer negative feedback is an opportunity to learn and progress and every business needs them.

In the realm of customer service, complaints are commonplace. Now with the internet and social media posting a negative comment is a breeze and companies are compelled to respond to avoid further negativity. The common complaints in customer service seem to revolve around rude, insulting and impatient front-end employees. Some customers feel that they were treated as interruptions by the employees who seemed too busy doing something else. If a company is in confusion and disarray, this too would reflect on the customer service and this attitude would be easily picked up by the customers. It is the onus of the company to learn from these complaints and make immediate amends before one comment turns in to a tide of negativity for the company.

– The most important and foremost step in learning from customer negative feedback is to know not to take the complaint personally. Taking the complaint personally will force you to defend yourself and the service, as per the common human tendency, blocking the path for constructive solutions. Justifying the actions or lapse in service will not only prevent your company from improving and making amends, but will give reason to the customer to become extremely angry and stop doing business with your company.

– Customer negative feedback must not be seen as an attack or something done with malicious intent. This feedback is more a reflection of the frustrating experience the customer had with your company and is personal concern which the customer just wants addressed. Looking at the feedback objectively would afford your company a chance to improve and remove the apprehensions other customers may have had but did not express it.

– Learning from customer negative feedback is a positive mind-set that will help your company move forward and improve its offerings and service by leaps and bounds. Learning from this feedback is easier when it is not taken personally and will allow your company to acknowledge the problem caused by an error that your business and its representatives may have done. The customer needs to feel that in exchange for the investment they have made, your company at least has their best interests at the core of its business. They will not be comfortable with your company and will not be inclined to trust if their complaint meets with resistance and defensiveness.

– It is vital for any company to receive the customer negative feedback positively. They must thank the customer for taking time to provide feedback. This will let customers know that their concerns and problems are valid and that your company will take them seriously enough to fix them. Post acknowledging and offering a solution, it is important to offer them some kind of compensation for their poor experience to ensure that they will remain as customers.

– Customer negative feedback is a great teacher. Not only would there possibly be a too and fro exchange of ideas between you and the aggrieved customer, your company would learn not to let the issue reoccur. Not learning from the feedback would most likely result in your company making the same mistakes with other customers which would eventually lead to all customers disappearing, leading to the ‘demise’ of your business.

It never to surprise how companies ‘say’ that customers are the life-blood of their business and yet when these crucial people complain, they choose to look the other way. How can the business survive without the constant flow of ‘life-blood’? Provide opportunities for customers to come to you and don’t block them out when they complain. They have the right to and also a more than correct in expecting that their complaint will be sorted out.

We have looked at ways that companies can and do learn from customer negative feedback. Wonder what will go in to a manual that teaches a company and its representatives not to learn from feedback given by customers! Some choice ‘teachings’:

– Solicit and collect customer feedback, put it in to scores and averages and that’s all. Don’t look at why certain scores and percentages increased and why some others went down. Make a set of your employees spend valuable man-hours in collating the data and do nothing but share it. There is no need to analyse what the customers are saying and what they are trying to convey through the comments and scores. You’ve done better – great! That’s all the employees need to know. Of course, post the positives on sites that are easily visible – makes for great promotion. Why waste time understanding the negatives – customers are prone to complaining.

– Customers said a lot of stuff in the feedback. Collation takes time – its hard work. Take your time – let your employees see this feedback many weeks later. By then everyone would be less stressed, since they would have forgotten what they did to contribute to customers that resulted in positive and negative comments. The company and its employees need time to relax too.

– Make the survey for customers as impersonal as possible. In fact put in a pre-determined list of aspects on which they must provide comments on. Put in multiple-choice questions – it’s convenient for your company to process and it really is no issue if these put a burden on the customers. Just ensure that there is no room for a human touch by preventing the customers from sharing feedback in their own words. You really don’t want to know the issues they face because then you would have to do something about them.

– Tie the customer feedback to money for your employees. By letting employees know that their salary increases and other benefits depend on what customers say in the feedback, it makes employees focus on what they can get. It’s no matter that they are still not focused on the customer and only around the customer survey period everyone is frenziedly working towards clinching those high score. The idea is to practically beg customers to provide high scores and discourage angry ones from saying anything so that the ‘figures’ the employees receive later are delightful to them.

– After asking customers to spend time and effort on providing feedback, tell them that the feedback was only a means to get a ‘feel’ of the market. It was only research and hence no real action is required on whatever the customers have said. It really does not matter that the customer is providing the feedback because they want to be heard – you took anonymous feedback so you don’t need to acknowledge the customer feedback. You have information and that’s all you needed. The feedback was not to uncover service or product issues or issues that would require you to sort out inter-function cohesiveness. There is no requirement to close any loop with the customers.

Truth be told, as lop-sided and preposterous these teachings may sound, there are companies that are following them and may be adding some of their own.

Coming back to what should be – companies that actually listen and learn from all reactions particularly customer negative feedback are the ones that are gaining popularity and garnering impenetrable customer support. These companies put feedback at the centre of their daily tasks, tell their employees what they expect and use every customer reaction to get better. Every improvement will draw your customers closer and make them respect a lot more.

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