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Learn to love negative feedback

Here are three things you have to know about negative feedback and customer complaints.

1.       Customers usually want less than you think.

2.       Customers who have never had a problem are not as loyal as customers who have had a problem that was successfully resolved.

3.       Customers who take the time to complain want to make things better.

The best way – and cheapest way – to resolve customer complaints is to directly ask the customer how to set things right. This is preferable to making them an offer, as they will usually want less than they would settle for in a negotiation.

Customers who have never had a problem are not as loyal as customers who have had a problem that was successfully resolved. Nothing is perfect; they all know errors are bound to happen. But the quality of the service is reflected by the way you are able to respond to these challenges.

This is so important that it almost makes it worth creating problems on purpose, just so you can fix them afterwards. If everything is delivered on schedule, how would the customer discover that you are insistent that the customer’s needs be fully and fairly met? You have to have a problem, so you can fix it, in order to demonstrate your sincerity about delivering a quality product and service.

The problem is, that no mater how obvious this is, a large number of customer complaints are still poorly handled. The reason for this is fear – fear that the customer is trying to rip you off; fear that someone will have to take the blame and that someone might be you.

Employees often think that their job is to protect the company from the customer. Plus, they often believe that negative feedback is a sign of failure instead of an opportunity to grow. Accepting and even requesting negative feedback is a strategy the top management should implement. More than that, they should demonstrate this is for the good of the business and encourage employees to step out of the box to resolve a customer complaint.

Four Steps to Service Recovery

1.       Establish rapport. Let the customer know up front that you are on their side.

2.       Discover the Problem. Ask them to describe the problem exactly.

3.       Offer a complete solution. Ask the customer what they think is right. Agree and up the ante to prove that you are serious.

4.       Cement the relationship. Apologize again and tell what will be done to prevent a reoccurrence.

     It all sums up to doing whatever it takes to make things right whenever they go wrong.

If a customer complains, he is simply asking you to help them remain loyal. They want to continue to do business with you. If this wasn’t the case, they wouldn’t take the time to complain in the first place. Instead, they would simply turn to your competitors. Customers who complain are giving you a chance to set things right. Complaints are opportunities that you have probably overlooked.

People who take the time to give you negative feedback chose the hard way to solve their problems. They overcame possible issues like rude treatment from the manager, or staff treats them poorly. It would be a lot easier for them to just leave and make sure they tell everyone they know about how badly you treated them.

Keep in mind that negative feedback is a way of improving your business, as it brings new ideas of development and growth.

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Filed under: Best Practices, Marketing Results, Marketing Tactics, Strategy

2 Responses

  1. This is such a great post! I am President of a market research firm in the Chicago market and I see this all the time. Many clients hesitate starting a customer feedback program because they feel all they will hear are the negative comments. We preach that ALL comments are necessary and especially the negative ones as you have outlined.
    Sometimes I think it is the difference of seeing the glass half full instead of half empty! 🙂

  2. This article is great and I totally agree with you.

    I’ve seen people involved in client service that just can’t deal with negative feedback. They take it personally. And I know I’ve also done this.

    This is normal as a first reaction. We are only human.
    But you have to realize that after all both the client and you have the same goal.

    Negative feedback can often come from poor communication at the beginning of the project. You have to accept that even if you think you were very clear it is very possible the client doesn’t understand you and doesn’t realize that or is just ashamed to ask you for clarifications.

    The important thing is to be focused on finding solutions not finding the culprits.

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