How to Respond to Negative Customer Feedback

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Inci Rodoplu
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I love cooking, but I prefer to order rather than sparing time for it more often than not. Being a little conservative about food, I usually stick to the restaurants I know, but I take a chance with the other high performers when I feel particularly adventurous. The section I check even before the menu is user reviews. While just skimming through positive reviews (but paying closer attention if the restaurant responded), I hunt for negative customer feedback like the most fierce predator. So it wasn’t surprising for me to learn that 97% of consumers consider other people’s opinions worth consulting before making a purchasing decision.

The Importance of Customer Feedback

Needless to say, almost everybody consults somebody else before purchasing a new product. Asking family and friends for their opinions is something we’ve been doing for ages, and word of mouth never loses appeal. But this time, it’s a little bit different because “Verba volant, scripta manent” – or in more familiar words, “spoken words fly away, written words remain”, and they are available to a huge audience, practically forever. Whether on your website, a review site, or social media, receiving customer feedback is essential because, according to Power Reviews’ report, “70% of consumers indicate they won’t purchase products online without reading reviews.” Most of the time, lower ratings mean they don’t see the brand at all. That’s why many brands nudge customers to post ratings and reviews frequently and invest in conducting customer surveys.

Unfortunately, people tend to write reviews in two situations: When they are extremely satisfied and frustrated as hell. I have written a couple of those myself. Some restaurants failed to respond properly and lost a customer, while some others earned a second chance or even gained a loyalist. We can easily say that feedback is a gift when appropriately utilized, whether it is positive or not.

The Importance of Negative Feedback

It may be hard to really, truly embrace, but as Chuck Palahniuk put it, “You’re not a beautiful and unique snowflake.” Yes, everybody knows it – every person looking in the mirror, every brand manager, every service provider, every content creator, everyone who has ever taken the risk of making something and putting it out for the world to see. But the harder we put into something, the more it hurts to hear that it is less than perfect. 

How do you respond to negative feedback from customers?
Scenes on a split-screen from Nosedive, an episode of Netflix’s Black Mirror. The first scene shows the main character happy about her social reviews, and the second scene shows her devastated with a much lower rating.

Before brooding over a few negative comments, remember that they actually establish trust by showing that your brand, products, and reviews are for real. It appears that “purchase probability peaks when a product’s average star rating is between 4.2-4.5, because consumers perceive a perfect 5-star rating as too good to be true.”

You might be tempted to remove the negative reviews. Just resist the urge unless they are awfully inappropriate or nefarious. Instead of deleting the comment, say that you’re sorry for the negative experience and work out an acceptable resolution behind the scenes. 

Although the saying goes, “You can’t make everyone happy, you’re not pizza”, one of the most outstanding negative feedback examples belongs to the pizza franchise Domino’s. Not only did they respond to negative customer feedback brilliantly, but they also built a marketing campaign out of it. As a result of a complete product overhaul and a very daring ad campaign, they modernized the company’s image with a sense of humor and a pretty customer-friendly style – not to mention having a really successful fiscal year. (By the way, this is not a pizza advertorial because I don’t order pizza at all. When I crave it, I make it like a boss.)

Domino’s case is a remarkable example of how companies should respond to negative social media feedback. Even if you don’t have a gazillion-dollar budget, it offers some key learnings you can implement. 

The Right Way to Respond to Negative Feedback from Customers in Five Steps

If handled properly, some situations provide opportunities to turn negative responses into positive ones. Responding professionally to negative feedback varies according to the case, but it indeed requires flawless customer engagement and a well-studied strategic approach.

  1. Wait and think. This first step is absolutely crucial. First of all, take a few deep breaths and then take the time to thoroughly and clearly understand the feedback. It will also help you deal with your emotions and prevent overreacting. Well, it’s better than no reaction at all anyway. At least it provides you with a target for improvement. 

  2. Review the data. Not every little comment is worth immediate attention, but then again, some do. Also, not every comment is written with pure intentions. You might need to check the user’s past interactions and devise a strategy. If you use a social customer service tool like Juphy, tag the comments accordingly, and soon you might see a pattern. Maybe it’s someone just seeking some extra attention, or the problem may result from a misunderstanding. But on the other hand, it might alert you about a problem inherent to your business structure or strategy.

  3. Move the conversation to a private channel. It doesn’t matter if the customer is right or abusive. First, control the crowd by showing up and declaring you’re willing to handle the issue one on one. Then ask the relevant questions without being interrupted, easing the tension on your own terms and turning an undesired experience into a win.

  4. Be sincere, and please cut the nonsense. Nobody really cares if you had the worst day ever or whose fault it is. Empathize and remember that your customer is not a prick. It’s only natural since you are somebody else’s customer as well. They are just frustrated because you couldn’t provide the service that was expected from you. It may be more than you’ve initially promised but keep calm and provide an explanation – not an excuse. They are looking for a solution or compensation, and if you can help them with their issue, they will surely appreciate it.

  5. Make compensation if the issue deserves one and if the complainant promises better customer lifetime value. Being attentive and understanding doesn’t necessarily justify the customer’s complaint and mean that you need to make things right. One customer’s complaint might be totally irrelevant for another, but your response would attract attention. How you handle problems tells more about your service quality than a costly marketing campaign.
Customers can smell insincerity from miles away.
A scene from Nosedive, an episode of Netflix’s Black Mirror. The main character is faking sincerity with tears in her eyes.

Keep Up with The Reviews in Real-time with Juphy

Juphy is a highly recommended social customer service tool that collects all the interactions from a series of channels and platforms to a single dashboard. It is an advanced unified inbox that helps you manage all your customer queries, including email, reviews, and interactions from all the social media platforms you currently need.

Juphy's Supported Platforms for Social Media Monitoring
Juphy’s Supported Platforms

How to Use Juphy for Responding to Negative Feedback and Customer Reviews Online

With its customer-centric features and clean navigation, Juphy can be one of the most powerful tools in your marketing and customer support arsenal. First of all, you can receive and respond to feedback from all relevant channels in real-time. Observing all the queries, including the past conversations, will help you prioritize better.

The neatly designed UX allows you to engage with internal and external teams, as well as the customer at the same time, right from your inbox. You can discuss strategies with your teammates to reply to complaining customers and create the perfect responses together, while monitoring similar issues from past interactions on the same interface. Juphy speeds the response process even more with useful features such as:

Joshua G
CEO, Small Business
“I’m in the early stages of running a new business and managing two personal brands. Juphy is a tremendous help in unifying social media messages linked with these entities. In my case, it’s handy to be able to invite specific staff members to handle inquiries from customers whose native language isn’t English. I can assign/revoke roles and review all correspondence in one convenient location. They have a promising road map.”
✓ G2 Verified Review
  • Tagging and classifying queries automatically according to keywords or sentiments so that no negative reviews go unattended
  • Canned responses to stall the customer for a short while or as quick answers to frequently brought up issues
  • Tracking the overall performance through different channels with reporting tools that can help you see the big picture and act upon it.

Start your 7-day free trial (no credit card information needed) and change how you manage negative reviews with a more productive approach.

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  • İnci Rodoplu believes that products of imagination make life a little more interesting and have chosen writing as a profession because words are the most effortless form of making sense of the world.