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Tips for Dealing with the Bad and Ugly of Customer Feedback from Entrepreneurs and Business Owners

There is one thing that every worker, entrepreneur and business owner has experienced firsthand. It doesn’t matter if you are at the top of your game in the business world or just getting your startup off its training wheels, you have still been there: bad customer feedback. There is that one customer who can’t be pleased or falls through the cracks of customer service and greets you with negative feedback about your business. They say you can’t please everyone, but you do have to deal with those you can’t. So how do you deal with bad customer feedback? Below are some tips from business owners and entrepreneurs.

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Photo Credit: Layton Mills

Photo Credit: Layton Mills

An opportunity to improve

Dealing with customer feedback should be looked at as an opportunity to improve a product/service. We recently had a comment on our facebook page regarding our flavoured milk Cranky Cow. Based on this feedback we were able to identify a much bigger problem with our most recent production and solve the issue before it grew. You need to identify what the problem is, see if it’s something you can fix or improve and than thank the customer for taking the time to vent their frustrations.The days of Social Media means that you need to address every problem as soon as it surfaces – Because someone’s always watching.

Thanks to Layton Mills, Cranky Cow Milk

 

Photo Credit: Alan Clark

Photo Credit: Alan Clark

Listen, listen, listen

My attitude is to pick up the phone the minute you become aware of the negative feedback. Call the person directly, politely introduce yourself as an authority in the situation, ask them if they have a few minutes to speak to you now, thank them for their feedback and say that since you’ve just been introduced to situation would they please tell you all about there experience now, so you can hear it from them first hand. And listen listen listen. All feedback is good feedback and is truly the breakfast of champions. If the customer is offering you and/or the marketplace bad feedback it is very real to them, so you are well advised to work around this as fact. Most people simply want to feel heard and when they do, and you’ve helped them to do it, you’ll know the minute the emotion leaves the conversation and once this has occurred you can then begin to fix the issue together with the customer. Of course if it is too hard, or you don’t have an answer to their complaint, feedback or questions, ask their permission for you to go away and do some research and if it is OK to call them back when you have found the answers for them. And absolutely be sure you call them back personally. The thing about negative feedback is that If the customer is thinking it, it is real – and (therefore) needs to be addressed. It’s been my experience that a negative feedback customer can and often does become a raving fan once they feel heard and their issues have been addressed. while I have focused on the phone in this example, the same theme can followed when using other mediums to voice, respond and discuss negative feedback.

Thanks to Alan Clark, Complete IP

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Photo Credit: Joshua Corbelli

Photo Credit: Joshua Corbelli

There’s always room for improvement

While all businesses like to hear what they are doing right, there is always room for improvement. Ultimately, we dissect negative feedback and examine our processes to see where inefficiencies lie. First, we need to accept that something is wrong. Second, it is imperative to respond in a timely fashion. Because we are always connected, we can actively address negative feedback and work to maintain a positive relationship. Through online polls, blog posts and social media outreach, we actively work to improve our company, so that our customers can have the best possible experience, with the hope that negative feedback ultimately turns into a positive experience.

Thanks to Joshua Corbelli, LGH Marketing/Strategy

 

Photo Credit: Anthony Khoury

Photo Credit: Anthony Khoury

Engage the customer right away

I engage with the customer right away. My staff will call the client and find out what is wrong. They will listen and not interrupt. Allot of people like to vent so you just need to be patient and hear them out. We then ask them how we can rectify the situation. Even if the client is wrong, we generally try to appease them either by giving them a discount on their next order or reproducing what they just ordered. In the big picture scheme of things, a client has lifetime value. I view them as doing business with us for the next 10 years. I don’t want to lose them over one transaction. Many business owners get emotional and want to WIN the argument with clients. We need them more than they need us. In the end, they are extremely happy that you listened to them. If you don’t engage them, they generally will never order again. Make customers feel special no matter what.That has been my experience.

Thanks to Anthony Khoury, Small Business Mentor

 

Photo Credit: Robert Hoddenbagh

Photo Credit: Robert Hoddenbagh

They just want to be heard

Dealing with customer feedback, bad feedback in particular, can seem like a daunting task. With our extensive experience in online reputation management it has become very clear that in 90% of the cases customers just want to be heard. They do not expect any type of action, they do not expect a refund or some grand gesture, all they are looking for is someone who will listen to them. It’s in our nature to speak out against injustice, if there is no way for your customers to tell you that something has gone wrong, they will try and find as many ways as possible to leave negative feedback to affect your business. If you however manage your social media channels properly, attend to customer emails and provide phone support, this gives your customers ample resources to vent their frustrations.

Thanks to Robert Hoddenbagh, Mesasix

 

Photo Credit: John Publicover

Photo Credit: John Publicover

Dealing with negative feedback varies depending on the type of company you have

Dealing with customer feedback will vary depending on your type of company or organization. For example, the customer feedback that a management team would receive if working for a sales company would be much different than customer feedback dealing with a political organization. Having worked in both realms, the one bit of advice would be to be understanding. Being able to understand the customer or individual’s argument is one of my key points I explain to my employees when dealing with individuals. Understanding the opposing side consists of several parts, listening, pausing, and calmly reacting. Listening is the number one crucial step in dealing with an upset individual. Let the individual vent about the issue as this psychologically calms them down. Next I suggest pausing for a few seconds after acknowledging that you are aware of their argument as this gives the opposing side a chance to relax for a moment and breathe. Lastly, I suggest calmly reacting. By calmly reacting to the individual you are able to confront the person with a non-challenging attitude where you are able to express your side of the opposition. No matter what field of business you are in, being able to understand the opposition is key! Remember, listen, pause, and calmly react.

Thanks to John Publicover, Project Red Leaf

 

Photo Credit: Master Joseph B. Ash

Photo Credit: Master Joseph B. Ash

Get out in front of it and make it right

I train my staff to view any and all feedback as positive, even if negative at first glance. The fact is any feedback you receive from clients will help improve your business. Get out in front of it and make it right by using the feedback and turn it into a growing opportunity for your business. It makes perfect sense if you understand the core reasons behind their complaint. After all, they are telling you what you need to know in order to keep their business. If you can step away from your ego long enough to listen and think of the greater purpose, I would say most of the time the rewards will elevate your business to new levels of success. I would be weary of not hearing anything form your clients.

Thanks to Master Joseph B. Ash, Baeplex Family Martial Arts

 

Photo Credit: Jennifer Daly

Photo Credit: Jennifer Daly

Swallow your pride and apologize

Swallow your pride and apologize. It doesn’t matter if the client is totally off her rocker and being irrational. Apologize. Genuinely and humbly. – Speak in person. Negative feedback will often come in the form of email or social media. It doesn’t matter how the feedback was shared, call the client directly and set up a time to discuss her thoughts in person. This will help you to diffuse the situation, not hide behind cyberspace, and make eye contact to show your honest interest in fixing the situation. – Ask for suggestions. It is important to ask the client how she would like the issue to be resolved. Take her suggestion into consideration and let her know you are making the effort to keep her happy. – Believe in yourself. Negative feedback is an important window into what you are and are not doing right…but sometimes it is just one client’s opinion and you can’t please everyone. So, take a survey with some trusted clients and share this negative feedback – is there any consensus amongst the other clients? If so, take action. If not, make an effort to help the complaining client to see your point of view and genuinely ask for her understanding.

Thanks to Jennifer Daly, Kinespirit

Related Post: What Makes Up a Great Salesperson?

 

Photo Credit: Hope Katz Gibbs

Photo Credit: Hope Katz Gibbs

Keep calm and carry on

Just as no PR is bad PR — customer feedback is always a good thing, even when it’s bad. If a customer is unhappy and shares a harsh critique, on Yelp for instance, the key is to step back and analyze the comment Does the customer have an honest beef? If so, how can the entrepreneur make a fix so others don’t have a similar experience? Or, is the feedback simply sour grapes? If that’s the case, then the entrepreneur’s best response is to take a deep breath and let it roll off their back. The same holds true for positive feedback. Is the business really as great as a glowing comment might suggest? Or, is there something for the business owner to learn from the comment? In fact, responses from customers are often great launching pads for marketing campaigns. So get creative, and turn lemons into lemonade. And remember, successfully dealing with it is simply a matter of perspective. Keep that insight in the forefront by writing this genius WWII advice on a sticky note and post it on your laptop: “Keep calm and carry on.”

Thanks to Hope Katz Gibbs, Inkandescent Public Relations

 

Photo Credit: Bob O'Hare

Photo Credit: Bob O’Hare

Criticism is a gift

Is there such a thing as bad customer feedback? I don’t think so. I see all feedback as positive and a gift to a business. I wrote an article years ago entitled “Criticism Is A Gift,” and I had lots of resistance to it because the word ‘criticism’ has such a negative connotation in our minds. So, let’s talk about customer feedback without using that word. We want all customer feedback, that which tells us we are doing a good job and that which helps us to improve our products and service. If a customer is unhappy and does not tell us, they will be telling our prospects who we will never get to know and serve. What should we do with feedback we consider to be good and positive? We should be thankful and grateful and say so back to the provider. We have to learn from it, develop the information into testimonials and expose it to our prospects. We must strive to improve by it and drive company action to do much more of what was pleasant for the customer. What should we do with feedback we consider to be bad and negative? It may sound like I’m repeating myself now—and I am. We should be thankful and grateful and tell the provider we are grateful and sorry. We must not be afraid here. We have to learn from the feedback, and develop the information into a diagnostic process and problem solving plan. There has to be no blame. Share with your employees what you are doing to improve and obtain their input. Explain to employees why the change will benefit them. Strive and drive action to eliminate what was unpleasant for the customer.

Thanks to Bob O’Hare, Performance Improvement Technologies, Inc.

 

Photo Credit: Dick Stieglitz

Photo Credit: Dick Stieglitz

Embrace bad feedback internally and externally

Embrace bad customer feedback externally and internally. Even if the customer’s complaint is erroneous or the result of a misunderstanding, it is what they believe and what they will tell others. Rule #1 applies: “The customer is always right; and when the customer is wrong, see Rule #1!” Externally: (1) ask the customer to tell you more about what happened, (2) acknowledge how they see things and how they feel, (3) ask how you can make it right, and (4) give them what they request if it is at all reasonable. Internally: (1) use the incident as a learning experience for everyone; (2) reject defensive explanations; (3) identify specific actions to take with the dissatisfied customer; and (4) upgrade product/service quality, business processes, and IT systems as required. In the long term, this response to bad customer feedback will improve customer service substantially, create a reputation for superior service and responsiveness, and ingrain top-notch customer service in the culture.

Thanks to Dick Stieglitz, Leadershp COnversations, LLC

Related Post: How Do You Motivate Employees

 

Photo Credit: Sheri Harrison

Photo Credit: Sheri Harrison

Show remorse and understanding

Effectively addressing unfavorable responses from customers is the foundation to successful online reputation management. As more and more people rely on consumer reviews to influence their purchase behavior, my main goal is to respond to the disgruntled customer as quickly as possible. Using tools such as Google Alerts and email alerts will assist in this process. I wouldn’t want their dissatisfaction to be voiced on social media, review sites or anywhere else for that matter. Our policy at The Budget School includes the following steps: 1. Show remorse and understanding 2. Reassure them that our customer service policies aim to please our users and over-deliver on our brand promises 3. Suggest a form of consolation and rectify the problem 4. Put in place methods to avoid similar complaints or feedback.

Thanks to Sheri Harrison, The Budget School

About Gresham Harkless Jr.

Gresham Harkless is the Blogger-in-Chief for CEO Blog Nation. CEO Blog Nation is a community of blogs for entrepreneurs and business owners. Started in much the same way as most small businesses, CEO Blog Nation captures the essence of entrepreneurship by allowing entrepreneurs and business owners to have a voice. CEO Blog Nation provides news, information, events and even startup business tips for entrepreneurs, startups and business owners to succeed.

No comments

  1. Hi Ashley, I found this article really interesting and useful. I especially like what Robert Hoddenbagh had to say and from my view cannot agree with him more. Customers just want to be heard and the key is to listen. Let them vent out their frustrations even before getting onto social media or any other universal platform to ruin the reputation of your business.

    Its tricky but with emergence of real time customer feedback tools like the one i just implemented in my hotel called Geteco, management can prevent customers from leaving unhappy in the first place. Listening to customers on site and real time response from management gives customers a sense of importance to the business and shows them we care. Just sharing my 2 cents worth, Cheers :)

    • Hi Sharon, your comment really caught my eye as i fully agree with your sentiments and what you had to say with on site delivery of feedback and managerial response. However the main reason your comment caught my eye is because the tool you just mentioned Geteco is currently under trial for my restaurant for the past month. So far It has been quite effective in customer feedback management as it provides the necessary benefits for management and customer alike of real time and on site interaction. Thanks for sharing the article and comments guys.

  2. Hi Ashley, I found this article really interesting and useful. I especially like what Robert Hoddenbagh had to say and from my view cannot agree with him more. Customers just want to be heard and the key is to listen. Let them vent out their frustrations even before getting onto social media or any other universal platform to ruin the reputation of your business.

    Its tricky but with emergence of real time customer feedback tools like the one i just implemented in my hotel called Geteco, management can prevent customers from leaving unhappy in the first place. Listening to customers on site and real time response from management gives customers a sense of importance to the business and shows them we care. Just sharing my 2 cents worth, Cheers :)

    • Hi Sharon, your comment really caught my eye as i fully agree with your sentiments and what you had to say with on site delivery of feedback and managerial response. However the main reason your comment caught my eye is because the tool you just mentioned Geteco is currently under trial for my restaurant for the past month. So far It has been quite effective in customer feedback management as it provides the necessary benefits for management and customer alike of real time and on site interaction. Thanks for sharing the article and comments guys.

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