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Encompass® Agency Insights

How to Handle Negative Customer Feedback

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Smart and effective management of negative customer feedback has never been more important for businesses. Thanks to the amplification effects of social media and the popularity of online review sites, one negative complaint or assessment now has the power to skew the perception of a business for a large audience.

This means that even a single, strongly worded negative review can influence the buying habits of hundreds or thousands of potential customers. Statistics show that 90 percent of people read online reviews, and 67 percent of people use this information when making buying decisions. This means that it's critically important to process complaints in a way that pleases the consumer and protects your business.

The art of handling negative feedback

Even the most well-run enterprise can have an off-day or be the victim of a good faith miscommunication with a client. When situations such as these arise, it's vitally important to have a plan in place. Some tips include:

  • Remain calm and focused when dealing with complaints. This is absolutely essential when attempting to keep an interaction civil and polite. Even if a customer becomes angry or upset, it's imperative to maintain composure.
  • In the same vein, never respond to a poor online review in the heat of the moment. Always wait until you've had time to truly digest what's being said. While it's tempting to dash off a response in your defense, waiting for a few hours (and having more than one person evaluate the response) will ensure that you remain professional and reasonable. Remember, you're not just responding to the person with the complaint — you're responding to all of those other readers who remain invisible.
  • Always attempt to de-escalate the situation. When dealing with a customer complaint in person or over the phone, avoid direct contradictions or accusations of inaccuracy. Two people can have differing recollections and still act in good faith. Sometimes, simply acknowledging that someone is angry and expressing empathy are enough to defuse the situation.
  • Don't take the bait when reading blatantly false, malicious or misleading reviews. It's better to avoid descending to this level. Instead, ask for these reviews to be flagged and removed.
  • Make an attempt to empathize. Negative feedback often begins with a relatively minor event that is then blown out of proportion due to a poorly handled response. A customer should never become even angrier or more upset as the resolution process moves along. Always make sure that customers know they are important to you. If they take the time to leave an online review or confront you with negative feedback, it's obviously an issue that resonates with them.
  • Never handle complaints on an ad hoc basis. Customer service training is essential, and consistent protocols should be in place for employees to follow when they deal with customers. Consistency of approach is critically important.
  • When customers are angry, first thank them for their business and for taking the time to give you feedback. While nobody likes being told that their goods or services are lacking in some way, the truth is that feedback from your clientele is extremely valuable. It provides a window into what other customers are thinking — but maybe not saying. Also, social interactions can have beneficial effects on your business products. Complaints allow you to identify areas where your products or services might be falling short. By incorporating the lessons learned from negative feedback, you can develop new and more customer-friendly solutions.
  • Encourage customers to leave positive reviews whenever possible. This will ensure that potential customers receive a well-rounded picture of your business that includes feedback from satisfied clients.

The takeaway

In today's world of instant social feedback and online reviews, your business reputation must be zealously protected. The costs of failing to do so are serious; by one estimate, businesses lose $62 billion every year due to poor customer service.

By following the advice outlined above, you can help ensure that you've put the necessary framework in place to protect your enterprise and keep your clients happy and loyal.

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