This Could Have Ended Badly…

Recently, when a piece of equipment in my home office finally decided to give out, I learned how a good organization handles negative feedback. But first, let me back up for a minute…

I needed to replace a piece of equipment, and a quick trip to the local provider retail store should have resolved the issue. When I returned to my office with the item, the real fun started. The new equipment didn’t work, so I called for service. The first service provider, over the phone, tried to resolve the issue, but blamed the store for giving me the wrong equipment. The second service provider claimed the phone agent was crazy and that I had the right equipment, but they would need to send a technician. The technician arrived, told me everyone was crazy and that the problem originated outside on the “line.” The technician submitted a request for service on the line, but warned me that there was no estimate as to when that work would be completed. At this point, I, the customer, was ready to cancel said service and find another provider.

At that moment, a magical thing happened. I received an email asking for feedback on my “service experience.” I waited until I had a moment of serenity and decided to respond.

Thinking this was going to end up in a feedback “black hole,” I was shocked when my phone rang and “Pat” came to my rescue. Pat asked me what had happened and gathered all of my information. Promising to be my personal advocate, she resolved to ensure I would be taken care of. And she did. In less than 24 hours, my issue was resolved and, it turns out, I helped identify an issue that was beginning to cascade around my area—and now the provider knew what the issue was and how to solve it quickly for others!

In a matter of days, I moved from researching new providers to becoming an advocate and positive voice for this one. My attitude was changed because a company had a process and policies in place to handle negative feedback.

The article, “How to Handle Negative Customer Feedback” from Entrepreneurial Insights highlights actions any company should take when facing negative feedback from customers:

  1. Assess the Problem
  2. Respond Immediately But Don’t React
  3. Respond Sincerely, Respectfully, and Thankfully
  4. Correct Customers if Their Feedback Was Wrong (although I wasn’t in this case)
  5. Take the Opportunity to Improve Your Business
  6. Follow-Up to Show You Care

Assess the Problem

This is where strong problem solving or analysis processes can truly benefit an organization. Negative feedback is generated from something in your organization that is not working correctly. It is important to understand specifically what is triggering the issue. Using a problem-solving tool such as the “5 Whys” can help get to the root of the problem, and ultimately avoid future negative feedback once the problem is addressed.

Respond Immediately But Don’t React

I was thrilled to receive a quick response to my feedback, but would have been even angrier if the person calling took a defensive stance. It is critical that you work with your team and craft responses, both on the phone and in email, that are empathetic and focused on resolving the issue and not placing blame.

Respond Sincerely, Respectfully, and Thankfully

Feedback is a gift, positive or negative. If you work to ensure your customers know that their feedback is valued, you can use it to boost customer retention and loyalty. Responding sincerely to every comment you get, even the awful ones, can yield very positive results.

Correct Customers if Their Feedback is Wrong

This can be tricky, but if Pat had contacted me and let me know that I had incorrectly installed the equipment or did something that caused the error, I guess I would want to know. On the other side, even if the customer was wrong, it pays to thank them and rectify the situation, if necessary. Keeping the contact positive will provide benefits in the long run.

Take the Opportunity to Improve Your Business

This is where my situation has the happiest ending. Not only was the provider able to solve my problem, but they uncovered a larger issue that could have potentially led to more negative feedback. While positive feedback is nice to receive, negative feedback can truly lead to improvements in how your business operates, the policies you have for customers, or the service you provide. It just takes the effort to track down the reason behind the negative feedback and a search for the root cause.

Follow-Up to Show You Care

After all was said and done, I received one last message from Pat. She wanted to check in and see how everything was working and whether I had any additional feedback. That final step ensures the negative experience ends on a positive note, and helps the organization create a culture that connects with customer feedback—good and bad.

So, this could have ended badly. However, one company’s desire to handle negative feedback and make the most of a bad situation turned an angry customer into a loyal one.

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