Word of mouth has long played the role of a blessing for your marketing, but a potential nightmare for your reputation. And unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past decade, you’ll know that online reviews have more than taken over from the influence of word-of-mouth.
We’re all customers to a certain extent, so we know that reviews are among the top influences on our decision-making process. Clearly, you can’t just ignore criticism (and to do so would be a dangerous path to take), but it’s hard to deal with a client’s negative feedback without the right strategies in place.
That’s why we’ve drawn upon experience to create a list of nine perfect ways to deal with a client’s negative feedback. We’ll first delve into customer-facing communication techniques before exploring internal changes you can make to reduce the frequency of such situations.
Ideally, you’d like all your positive praise to be public and negative reviews to be between you and your customer. You can’t control how people express themselves, but you can put a few tools in place to deal with a client’s negative feedback on your terms.
Customer feedback software such as forms and contact centers are a great way of channeling responses to your products and service. Try to give your customers a feedback method at every stage of the buyer journey. It could be as simple as a link to a form in a purchase confirmation email. For those clients who want to blow off a bit of steam, you can give them the satisfaction of speaking to you directly instead of pushing them into the less-controlled environment of social media and online reviews.
Of course, some customers will be quick to go public with their feedback, so you need to be ready. Your social media whizz should be in charge of community management, keeping an eye out for negative mentions as well as direct messages. As we’ll see in the next point, fast reflexes are crucial for dealing with client feedback, and keeping your eyes on your online reputation is the first step in speeding up your response time.
Striking the balance between being speedy and well-thought-out is difficult, but it is an essential skill to learn. To streamline your processes, consider writing up polite templates in your company tone of voice for your team to use as an initial response.
You need to deal with a client’s negative feedback as soon as possible for two main reasons:
It shows the customer in question that you care about their concern
It shows everybody else you take feedback seriously
Starting with the first reason, a quick reaction nips the negative feedback in the bud before your customer spreads it elsewhere. We humans love to be taken seriously and we need to feel heard, so get an apology in early doors, even if you don’t have a full solution to offer. Promising further action is always a plus, and most businesses try to shift any public conversations into the private realm at the first opportunity.
Looking at the bigger picture, how you deal with a client’s negative feedback is an insight into so much about your company. Even if someone has never heard of you, slow responses suggest you don’t care much about your customers and that there are no solid processes set up behind the scenes.
Standardized responses are great for a quick reply, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be personal in what you send. The theme of “feeling heard” is one that runs throughout the entire process when you deal with a client’s negative feedback, and personalizing responses is among the quickest and easiest ways to put someone’s mind at ease.
Start off with a simple name, rather than a cold, outdated “dear sir/madam” situation. It doesn’t even have to be a manual task either. When you’re sending communications from your CRM, you can automate your personalization by putting their first name in the introduction to your email.
Next, remember that each customer’s feedback is different, and you should recognize their specific issue. “Hi John, sorry about your delivery, here’s what we can do to help.” shows a real human side that goes a long way to calming tensions. Use your written snippets for speed and add in these personalized elements to build trust.
Going deeper into displaying your human side, it’s always a good idea to put yourself in your customer’s shoes to understand where they’re coming from.
So how do you handle negative feedback from very angry clients?
Sometimes customers just need to vent, and the last thing they want to be faced with is a robot or a sales agent that shows no understanding of their frustration. One of the best ways is to calmly listen, ask probing questions for full clarity, and be genuine in your apology. In both written and vocal communication, language is everything. Phrases like the infamous “I’m sorry you feel that way” are likely to spark a negative response, so analyze your interactions to see what works and what doesn’t.
As a final note on understanding your customers, it’s easy to hear an aggressive voice and switch off. However, by fully sympathizing with their argument, you can improve your chances of coming to a win-win solution.
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Having the right perspective will come across in how you communicate with your clients. Seeing a customer’s feedback as an attack will cause you to react defensively, which is not a great place to start from when you’re trying to improve a relationship. See it as constructive criticism rather than an insult and your energy will come through in your tone of voice.
By switching your team’s mindset to one of continuous improvement, you can deal with a client’s negative feedback in a positive way. So once you’ve acknowledged the issue, and made an apology, guide your customer through the next steps you aim to take to rectify the situation.
When you show how you’re going to improve, you not only make your customer feel valued, but you put a message out to everybody who can see your feedback page that you are a business that cares for its clients and has a desire to improve.
Empty promises make you no friends, and it’s exactly the same case when a business has to deal with a client’s negative feedback. Therefore, you should never make promises you can’t keep, and always make sure to follow through on the ones you do.
There are all kinds of actions you can take in response to a customer’s feedback, including:
Replacing a faulty item
Sending a gift voucher
Offering a discount on future purchases
Improving your internal or customer-facing processes
To make sure nothing falls through the cracks, set up a workflow template with all the steps involved. You could include steps such as apologizing, sending a gift, and confirming delivery. As a final step, reach out to your client with a brief overview and ask if they’re happy with what you’ve done. If you can do this on a public forum — even better.
Tying all the elements of customer feedback together, your follow up should be the last step of your journey. You’ve heard their issue, shown you understood it, shared a plan of action and put it into place. Now it’s time to make sure they’re satisfied.
A lot of your legwork has already been done publicly but your follow up is best kept private. It could consist of a short personal message, offering thanks for their feedback and describing how it has helped you improve.
Additionally, you can include a response form to see if you’ve lived up to expectations and if there’s anything else you can help them with. This step consolidates your efforts to build a strong relationship with your customers and really makes them feel valued.
A very valuable, albeit tricky extra to your follow up is to request that they update any negative reviews. Don’t worry, this isn’t coercion. You’re simply asking them to include the steps you’ve taken to make things right.
Now you’ve taken care of the situation and your customer should be happy, it’s time to look internally for ways you can prevent the same case from coming up again.
Luckily you’re not on your own. Customer feedback software goes far beyond a call center, social media platforms, and instant messenger widgets. By leveraging CRM analytics, you can document all of your customer interactions and prioritize what you need to work on to improve your service and products.
Launch frequent projects to improve your customer experience and keep a record of what you’ve done. You can then present your improvements to your superiors and customers to show the progress your company has made over time — great for a summer celebration or an end-of-year reflection.
By making yourself a reference for how to respond to negative feedback from clients, you can transform criticism into a powerful marketing tool. Whether it’s on social media, a newsletter announcement, or offline advertising, you can proudly say that you’ve listened to your customers and made changes accordingly. It’s unlikely that only one person has spotted the issue in question, so by letting your entire customer base know you’ve improved can help build trusting relationships.
Part of how to deal with a client’s negative feedback is standardizing your processes so you can react efficiently and effectively in the future. From structured workflows and detailed reports to automated messaging, emails and improved response times, there are myriad ways that you can prevent negative feedback before it even arrives.
Set calendar reminders to reach out for spontaneous feedback from your customers — this is where you can really fix problems before they become difficult to control. With customizable forms, all of your responses will be saved into your CRM where you can pull out reports that tell you how you’re doing over time.
By taking a kaizen (continuous improvement) approach to client feedback, you can not only stay on top of potential issues, but start advancing into more positive territory for customer service. For example, you can recommend items that others frequently buy, set up subscription services, and offer better advice on how to use your products.
We hope that our guide has helped you reduce that fear factor when faced with negative feedback. With a change in perspective and some key strategies put in place, you can react confidently to almost any complaint.
However, one of the easiest fixes is to get technology on your side. Bitrix24 offers everything you need to set the groundwork for your customer service response. From a CRM database with analytics and reporting to communication tools and social media management, you can organize everything from one handy place.
Did we mention you can get started for free? Sign up to Bitrix24 and start transforming your negative feedback today.