Negative Customer Feedback: How to Turn Criticism into Business Opportunities

Mistakes are instrumental to growth. That’s true of our personal lives, and it’s especially true in business. We can learn a lot when we’re faced with problems. Handling a customer complaint is never fun, but with the right perspective, such moments are real opportunities for growth. It’s all in how you handle customer complaints – and resolve them – that shows a company’s potential. Regardless of whether you’re a mom and pop shop or a huge international corporation, there’s a real art in accepting feedback and using it to grow.

Smiling Businesswoman Sitting at Her Desk

Actively Listen

Taking criticism isn’t easy. When you’re pouring your blood, sweat and tears into your business, any kind of negative feedback can feel like a personal attack. When listening to a customer complaint, though, it’s important to set ego aside and really tune into what the person is saying. Rather than simply waiting your turn to talk, or jump in with defenses for mistakes that were made, focus solely on the message you’re receiving. Then validate it – a simple “I can understand why that was frustrating” can do wonders to reassure a customer that you’re really listening.

As you actively listen, take time to clarify as needed. One of the best parts of actively listening is the chance to reach a mutual understanding more quickly. Customer complaints and solutions are often feedback in disguise. By clearing up misunderstandings as quickly as possible, you troubleshoot kinks in your system that you didn’t even know existed.

Own Up to Mistakes

Everybody makes mistakes. They’re a natural part of life. Unfortunately, when they happen in a business setting, you risk potentially alienating customers. As you solicit customer feedback, you’ll have to get very good at owning your mistakes. While seemingly negative conversations can be daunting, they’re incredibly valuable. By setting aside your pride and admitting fault, you open up the channels of communication. Growth can only come after this important step.

A bad feedback response, on the other hand, can do serious damage to your brand reputation. Should you come across as defensive or in denial about your products or services, customers may opt to take their business elsewhere. Given how quickly word spreads online about bad customer service, you could risk doing serious harm to your professional reputation. Gracefully admitting when you’ve made an error, on the other hand, could earn you a loyal customer for life.

Collect Feedback

A single customer complaint may alert you to issues, but to really delve into systemic problems, you’ll want to collect feedback from as many people as possible. If you’re hearing from a few customers that delivery times are backed up, for instance, you may want to start including a survey with each order. A simple questionnaire can help you hone in on customer issues while also getting the qualitative data you need to support real change.

Surveys and questionnaires aren’t the only way to solicit feedback. A customer service audit can provide unique insight into how well your current customer experience strategies are working. Get insight into how long the average person is waiting to talk to a representative, how many complaints you receive during a given period, and how customer feedback is captured and put to work. This kind of audit can add serious context to any complaints you might be hearing from customers.

Express Gratitude

You’re eager to please your customers. In the face of criticism, though, it can be hard to keep perspective. Nobody likes to discover that they’re disappointing or frustrating the customers they’re working so hard to satisfy. When resolving customer complaints, it helps to maintain a perspective of gratitude.

Without feedback from your customers, you’d never have the opportunity to change for the better. Customers don’t have to complain. In fact, many will keep their frustrations bottled up and opt to work with another organization the next time instead. The customers who voice their concerns and alert you to possible issues deserve your thanks. Practice excellent business phone etiquette, express thanks, and you may just earn yourself a repeat customer.

Take Action

It’s not enough to simply sit on the feedback you’ve gathered, or to thank customers for their insight. Instead, honor customer feedback and demonstrate that you are committed to providing great service by taking action as soon as possible. Sit down with stakeholders and map out solutions to the issues you’re hearing about from customers. There may not be a clear path to success, but simply working through the possibilities will highlight your options moving forward. For extra impact, consider looping your customers into the changes you make. They’ll be pleased to know you took their concerns seriously.

There’s no one size fits all solution for turning criticism into opportunity. Instead, each piece of feedback represents a new path you can take towards a better customer experience. Need help implementing that experience? MAP Communications is the ultimate partner in customer communications. Give our call center customer support experts the chance to transform the way you do business. Get started by setting up your free trial now!

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