How to deal with negative feedback

How to deal with negative feedback and why you shouldn’t be afraid of it

Royal Tweet: Queen Elizabeth II sends her first tweet
24th October 2014
RAW Digital Training partners with Hootsuite
12th November 2014

Like many of you I’m sure, I often purchase things on a popular online auction site. When I find a product that meets my needs, I take a look at the feedback for that seller. But here’s the thing, I’m not really that interested in the positive feedback; there’s only so much that “Item as described” can really tell you.

What I’m really interested in seeing, is any negative feedback. But let me be clear, this isn’t me taking delight in the misfortune of others. What I’m specifically looking at, is examples of how the seller deals with any negative situations.  This isn’t me being mean, I have a specific reason for wanting to see this.

I acknowledge that stuff happens, things go wrong.  I don’t want to be surprised should anything not be perfect, when I then go back and say “You know what, I’m not totally ok with this”.

You see, no matter how awesome we are in what we do, at some point, there might be someone who doesn’t quite love what we done, 100%. Things go wrong, often it’s even beyond our control, but the effect is the same – we have an unhappy customer.

This can happen whether you sell products, provide services or have any customer facing side to your business (which is most all of us).  We don’t like it, we try everything to avoid it, but on those rare occasions, customers may choose to voice that dissatisfaction on social media.

Most brands are pretty good at responding to positive messages.  You may thank the person, retweet it, you may even proudly show it off on your website…and why not, you earned it.  But what we do with negative feedback is potentially so much more powerful.

In my opinion, this scenario is one of the most feared and misunderstood of all potential opportunities businesses have available to them in their social efforts.  Many businesses worry so much about negative feedback (even though it represents such a minority of the total feedback), it can keep them off social altogether; or quite commonly results in a kneejerk reaction to delete the feedback as soon as it’s spotted.

Imagine though, as a consumer, you take the time to express your unhappiness to a business, only to see it deleted, removed or even worse, ignored.  You’re already disappointed, and now the brand you’re reaching out to doesn’t want to talk to you.  If this same situation played out face-to-face, your opinion and trust of that brand could easily be destroyed.

When someone voices that dissatisfaction publicly, don’t let it scare you.  Instead, see it for the great opportunity that it is.  You get to not only repair the damage done to the relationship with your customer, but you get to do it publicly.  This is your opportunity to show that even though something didn’t live up to the high standards you set for yourself, you’re committed to putting things right, to acknowledging that things don’t always run perfectly and that your brand shouldn’t be written off.

So, we don’t ignore, we engage.  We don’t go on the defensive, we demonstrate empathy.  We don’t pass the buck, we acknowledge.  By engaging, empathising and acknowledging we can neutralise the initial sting from the complaint – most customers just want to be heard.  Then we can explain what we’re going to do to make it right.

Some large brands have been a little slow on this uptake, we saw this with British Airways when they lost a customers luggage.  Dissatisfied with the lack of response he was able to get via telephone support, the customer took to Twitter.  The story started to get attention and BA started to sit up and listen.  Most social media users expect customer service from their chosen brands to take place on social media, publicly.  Gone are the days where consumers write letters that can be responded to in 2-3 weeks.

What I’d love to know is, how you respond to negativity.  What have you found works?  You can leave a comment here, or give us a shout on Twitter, Facebook or Google+.

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