So, your company has been hit with some not-so-great customer feedback. Whether it’s a lone voice of dissent or a full-fledged backlash, coping with negative customer feedback is never fun. Most VARs are self-made entrepreneurs who identify very closely with their businesses, so even the most minor lapse in customer satisfaction can come off like a painful personal attack.
But even if you’re feeling slighted, it’s important to remember that however imperfectly, rudely, or crudely it may have been expressed, negative customer feedback is actually a vital source of business intelligence. Whether or not your firm could have better handled the situation that led to the complaint, one thing is certain: you have absolute control in deciding how you will respond from this point forward.
You can choose to mope and moan about the negative customer feedback, or you can choose to glean whatever insight and constructive advice you can from the situation—and use it to improve your business. Here are some tips to help you turn negative feedback into the kind of constructive criticism that can boost your business in the long-term.
Tune into your own defensiveness—and then tune it out. Let’s face it, you’re only human—and most humans have a really hard time dealing with others’ anger. If your gut instinct is to get mad, it’s important that you recognize this impulse and learn to transcend it. Nothing is more poisonous to positive customer service outcomes than a manager who is negative and defensive.
Use active listening techniques to get to the bottom of the problem. When you’re chatting with an unhappy customer, make sure you’re really working hard to hear, rather than just formulating your next response every time that they speak. Ask respectful questions, request clarification, and intermittently rephrase their concerns and ask for confirmation that you’re on the right track with your understanding of the situation.
Defuse the emotional aspect of the situation with empathy. If your dissatisfied client is angry or upset, try to neutralize the emotional component of the situation. When you’re both discussing things calmly and rationally, you’ll be more likely to work out a mutually amenable solution. Calm down your customer by responding to their concerns with genuine empathy and sincere engagement.
Create an action plan and follow through. Once you’ve removed or at least reduced the emotional volatility of the situation, you can begin working with the customer to find a solution to the problem. Outline the specific steps you are going to take to remedy the issue they’re complaining about, and once you’ve completed these tasks, check back in with the customer to provide an update.
Incorporate the incident into your quality program. The best way to turn the unpleasantness of customer dissatisfaction into a positive is by making sure that you and your team learn from the experience and prevent it from happening again in the future. Take notes as you’re working through the resolution process, and once everything has been settled, write it up in a brief case study format. Then, you can use the situation as part of your ongoing quality training efforts.
Have you ever had to deal with a seriously disgruntled customer? What kind of techniques did you use to remedy the situation? Let us know in the comments.