How to Handle Negative Customer Feedback

Maybe it was in person, but most likely it was online.  Customers telling us just how awful we are.  Don’t they realize that’s what we have spouses for?  Just kidding.  We pour blood, sweat and tears into our business, building them the best way we know how.  They’re like a child.  So when some random customer who barely knows anything about it insults our child, what do we do? 

Is there a limit on what we can tell them to shove where?  Probably not, but saying what we’re really thinking is rarely going to result in the betterment of the business.  Obviously some customers are toxic and need to be fired, but more often the relationship is worth preserving.   So how do we deal with it?  

Before responding

Psychology Today offered relevant advice on how to prepare yourself to respond.  

  1. Stay Calm.  Your blood may be boiling and you may want to shout your innocence, but getting angry will not solve any problem.  Anger shows a loss of control and may give credence to the issue the customer is describing.  
  2. Listen.  Whether its an online review or customer expressing dissatisfaction in person; listen to what they have to say.  Even if most of what they’re saying seems outlandish, to be able to respond appropriately, you need to understand where they’re coming from.
  3. Take Time to Think.  Sometimes you have to respond immediately, but if you have the option to think before responding, take advantage of it.    This lets you process the information and see if there is any truth to the criticism.  

How to respond

The Association of Psychological Science did a great study on the best way to respond so we’ll be following their model.  

  1. Expression of regret.  Customers want to know you wish the incident hadn’t happened.  
  2. Explanation of what went wrong.  This is not an excuse.  You can’t fix something if you don’t know what’s broken.  
  3. Acknowledgement of responsibility.  Claiming responsibility also means being responsible for fixing it.   It also allows everyone to relax because they know the blame won’t be falling on them.  
  4. Offer of repair.  What are you going to do to fix what went wrong?  This could mean offering discounts, replacements, or certifications.  
  5. Request for forgiveness. This gives the power back to the consumer and it can help the healing process after they had felt injured by your company.

Being a company which handles review management for businesses, we are regularly having to apologize for various issues customers have with our clients.  Sometimes our apologies seem to fall on deaf ears, but sometimes its all it takes to restore a relationship with a customer.