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Dealing with negative customer feedback

By Pauline Muindi | September 30th 2020

You have a product or service that your clients and customers will love. You’re excited about it. But sooner or later, every entrepreneur has to deal with negative feedback from customers about products or services. Whether the negative feedback is justified or not, how you handle can affect your business. Your first instinct might be to get defensive. But with the right attitude, criticism can fuel your growth for your business. Listening and responding positively to criticism shows willingness to learn and provide a product that better suits your customer’s needs. To respond to negative feedback graciously, here are some helpful tips:

Don’t take it personally

Since you’re passionate about your business, it is easy to take any business criticism as a personal attack. Your ego is threatened, which signals your brain to engage in a fight or flight response. Fight responses include arguing and being rude to people who give you negative feedback. A flight response might be ignoring the feedback and the person it came from. Research has shown that people start avoiding the person who gives them negative feedback, even if it’s constructive.

However, business feedback is almost never about your personality or skills as an entrepreneur. Given that even the most successful entrepreneurs make mistakes, criticism is a valuable way to spot mistakes and correct them before they cost your business. If you receive criticism that makes you feel hot and bothered, take a deep breath and relax. Consider that the person giving the feedback only wants the best for you and your business. This shifts your mindset towards looking for a solution as opposed to building conflict.

Ask good questions

It can be difficult to accept that others are not as excited about your business idea or product as you are. It can crush your spirit make you to lose faith in yourself. But once you view feedback as a learning tool, you can use it to build your business. However, even with this mindset, deducing helpful information from a barrage of comments can be tricky.  This is especially true for online feedback from customers. Customers might leave vague criticism such as “horrible product” or ‘worst service” or simply “won’t recommend.” If possible, always ask for more details. What is the specific aspect of your product or service that they didn’t like? What would they want you to do differently?

When you receive negative feedback, it also gives you time to reflect and ask yourself important questions. What were the customer’s expectations? Why did they have those expectations? What can you do to remedy the situation? Bear in mind that negative feedback can be even more helpful than praise. It points out what you are doing wrong, giving you an opportunity to fix it.

Express appreciation

While some people relish complaining, most customers would rather just purchase from your competitor. It takes time and effort to review your product or service. Those who complain and point out flaws are a valuable asset to any entrepreneur. Recognising this fact, take time to thank the individual for their feedback. This unexpected response to harsh feedback demonstrates maturity and respect. It also opens up the communication channel for further feedback. And who knows, a gracious response to an angry customer might even turn them into loyal fans.

Apologise and take responsibility

Some businesses respond to criticism from clients and customers by blaming someone else. Don’t do this. Even if the customer seems irrational, it helps to genuinely apologize for their bad experience with your business. You don’t have to agree with the customer to understand their frustration. Sometimes, all they want is to feel understood and receive an apology. Address the aggrieved person using their name, a simple psychological trick to show them that you care. Take responsibility for the error and let them know if something is being done to fix it.

Provide evidence of improvement

If you’re able to act on the complaint and resolve it immediately, let the customer know in your initial response. But if you aren’t able to fix it right away, let the customer know what steps you’re taking to resolve the issue. The customer feels listened to and respected. These simple ways can turn a bad customer experience into a positive one.

Consider the source

While any kind of feedback is better than none, it is a good idea to consider the source. In today’s online world, trolls lurk in the comment sections and review websites. They delight in amplifying negativity on anything. Some of these trolls might be working for your competitor to sabotage your reputation. If you’re keen you will be able to distinguish genuine complaints from troll complaints. If the comments are on your social media profiles or website, it is a good idea to have them removed and if possible, ban the troll from commenting. You might want to respond to trolls tactfully, but this might not work on them. As it’s often said on the internet, the best solution is to not feed the trolls. In conclusion, responding to negative feedback from customers is always difficult. But your response can turn it into a positive experience for both you and your customers. Armed with lessons from negative criticism, you can correct the problem and put procedures in place to improve your products and services.

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