Dealing with customer feedback and making your relationships pop

Customer feedback

Feedback is all around us. Every time we speak to a person, employee, customer, vendor, we communicate feedback. Some the good, some the bad, and now with social media, some the creatively ugly. So as a company, how do you use feedback, and fundamentally how do you utilise feedback to grow your business?

Feedback occurs when an environment reacts to an action or behaviour. For example, ‘customer feedback’ is the buyer's reaction to a company’s products, services, or policies; and employee performance feedback is the employees’ reaction to feedback from their manager – the exchange of information involves both performance expected and performance exhibited. So let's take a look at how feedback impacts your business:

  • Reviews and feedback are the most common source for generating new leads and referrals. 86% of customers will pay more for a better experience;
  • 62% of B2B and 42% of B2C customers purchased more after a good customer service experience. Highly-engaged customers particularly buy 90% more often and spend 60% more per transaction;
  • 66% of B2B and 52% of B2C customers stopped buying after a bad customer service interaction;
  • 88% of customers have been influenced by an online customer service review when making a buying decision;
  • Customer service experiences have a long-lasting impact. 24% continue to seek out vendors for two or more years after a good experience. Bad customer service, however, has even longer lasting effects. 39% of customers continue to avoid vendors two or more years after a bad experience;
  • Women (45%), B2B (51%), Gen X (54%), and high-income households (79%) are most likely to avoid vendors two or more years after a bad customer service experience;
  • 54% share bad experiences with more than five people and 33% share enjoyable experiences with up to nine people. As a result, bad responses have a much more significant impact, telling up to 16 people - easily multiplying with social media;
  • Social media drives the majority of reviews and comments on customer service experiences. 45% share bad customer service experiences on social media, in comparison to only 30% sharing good customer service experiences via social media.

(Source: ZenDeskGroovehqUKCSI)

So why Should we Engage With Feedback?

As you can see, feedback is king when it comes to maintaining and growing your customer base. Like dominos, if one topples, you better hope there’s a strong PR net to catch them; otherwise, the whole lot will fall.

Feedback, although daunting, is an effective listening tool for understanding your audience and the broader market environment. Whether the feedback is done verbally or via a feedback survey, the person responding needs to know they have been understood and that their feedback provided value. Feedback can motivate and pull customers in by valuing their feedback. It humanises a brand and shows that the company is there for them - engaging with them head on and providing a solution.

Feedback can improve performance. Customer and employee feedback highlights problems within the business that may not be noticeable in a management position. However, feedback is often mistaken for criticism. The quicker this is recognised and acted upon; the quicker feedback can help shape your company and formulate better decisions to improve and increase performance. Understandably in the darkest corners of the internet, “trolls” do exist, and their feedback only aims to harm a business with no constructive intent. However, we will touch on tackling these monsters later in the article.

Finally, continued feedback provides a clear insight into the company’s alignment with goals, objectives and corporate strategies. Feedback is the key to extended learning. If a target isn’t met, then your customers and employees could probably tell you why. If you shut yourself off to the market, how will you ever know if you’re heading in the right direction?

So let's take a further look at dealing with the spectrum of responses your company may receive and how to engage with them on a level that doesn’t damage your brand, starting with the good:

How to Optimise Responses From Your Happy Customers

Positive feedback is always welcome. It shows the company is doing a spectacular job both internally and externally; keeping its customers happy, employees vigilant, and totalling a positive brand image. However, even with all this wonderful information, most companies fail to utilise and manage their feedback to further propel themselves ahead of their competition.

60-80% of customers who describe themselves as satisfied do not go back to do more business with the company that initially made them happy.

For instance, positive feedback can be used to establish relationships further and expand revenue streams through additional products and services. While feedback is a fundamental tool for engaging new customers by showcasing your talents, it’s important to remember those that gave you that status in the first place. Just because they’ve commented on your past work, doesn’t mean it needs to stay in the past. 60-80% of customers who describe themselves as satisfied do not go back to do more business with the company that initially made them happy. Often it’s due to a lack of connection. Reconnect with them, offer services or products that compliments what you have previously offered before, highlight your other products or services, and work with their positive image of your company from the get-go. Maybe they have different branches they could recommend you to. Are there sister brands? Does the office next door need a specialist?

Now, what about new customers? Customer acquisition is five times harder than customer retention. However, positive feedback is a vital asset for any business looking to build new relationships. So let's look at five ways we use feedback to optimise your customer acquisition strategy.

Display Feedback on Your Site

Be proud of your work. Shout out to the world (wide web) that you’re the best business in your sector by displaying up to date client feedback on your site. You want all your future clients to know that your business is customer centric. Whether it’s about how well your product or service performs or praise for the fantastic customer service you’ve provided - everything is gold dust. Moreover, the bigger the brand or name saying how great your company is, the better. A new customer may be sceptical at first, but they are more likely to do business with you if they read about a previous customers’ positive experience. As stated, 62% B2B and 42% B2C customers are persuaded to work with a business for longer if positive feedback is displayed.

Showcase Feedback Externally

Don’t just stop there - showcase your talents absolutely everywhere. People may not have heard of you yet, so advertise yourself on customer review sites such as TrustpilotTripadvisor, and reviews.co.uk. Semi-official / trusted sources like these give your reviews legitimacy. Even better, if you find niche communities that have a robust industry voice then let them amplify you further.

Furthermore, you don't need to treat these reviews as separate entities. Integrate them with your site and bingo, you’ve just doubled the positive feedback you’re displaying. It’s a great way to show customers your outstanding service through known brands and legitimate reviewing bodies - encouraging interest and boosting sales.

Identifying Customer Advocates

Customer advocates can be fantastic catalysts when it comes to marketing campaigns. They offer fantastic value without any loss. When you are gathering customer feedback try to look for the ones that rank you very favourably. Contact these people and build a stronger relationship with them. Don’t be afraid of asking for referrals or testimonials. Most of the time, they will want to help further improve your product or service.

Track Reviews and Provide Offers

If you’re not keeping track of your customers, leads, and market, then this is a great time to start. As mentioned, customer feedback is a useful way to see how your company works with its market. You can identify repeat customers, their advocacy and where to grow your relationship with them further. Using the likes of LinkedIn to identify individuals, their connections and potential opportunities, you can look to extend your product or service to other departments, colleagues and friends. Enlisting these customers as advocates with different discounts and offers through the data you’ve collected.

This also the same for employee feedback. With the importance of company culture ever increasing for businesses and job applicants, a new spotlight has been shone on the inner workings of a company. Whether you’re trying to employ new talent or work with a new company, employee advocacy is just as important as customer advocacy. Don’t refrain from using it just because it’s not from a customer. Employee advocacy can be a powerful tool for acquiring new business as it displays the passion and involvement of a company’s employees; directly reflecting the quality of work and service you have to offer.

So as we can see, positive feedback, as you probably expected, is fantastic. It can be both an internal and external tool to grow your business and expanding your customer base. Either way, if you are displaying your customer feedback and speaking to those who provided it, you’re already halfway there to optimising your strategy. But what about the other half? The dreaded bad feedback? And even worse, trolls?

When Feedback Turns Bad

Bad feedback is a more difficult pill to swallow. While it’s all well and good optimising your growth opportunities with positive feedback, we all know that no matter how many polite smiles and apologies you give, there will always be some bad feedback to dampen the mood. Whether it’s genuine or not, it’s something never to be ignored.

Whatever option you choose, it should ultimately work towards resolving the issue in the same tone as your target market resonates with.

There are many ways you can work with negative feedback, depending on your brand, it’s culture, and the foresight you have of the potential repercussions in the approach may take. Whether you’re direct, aggressive, paternal or friendly, there is no winning formula for dealing with negative reviews. However, whatever option you choose, it should ultimately work towards resolving the issue in the same tone as your target market resonates with.

Take a look at Protein World for example with their “you beach body ready?” campaign, which caused huge controversy on beauty standards and how people should look. When the campaign launched, it received a massive backlash with 400 complaints and 70,000 petition signatures being produced in less than a week. Rather than giving into the negative national response, Protein World continued to take a no tolerance stance; dismissing and aggressively tackling negative reviews. Why did they take this stance? Because they knew their market. They knew individuals using their products were gym fanatics looking to get the ideal “beach body”. Those complaining were simply not their customers. This approach resulted in making £1 million in just the first four days alone. Taking full advantage of the negative publicity and turning it into a growth opportunity.

While not all of us can react to negative comments so gracefully, just like not all of us can be “beach ready”, we can look at some critical approaches to tackling general negative customer feedback.

  1. Be Objective

    Nobody likes a defensive CEO. Accept the criticism with an open mind and show your willingness to change. It may be hard to be objective, but a response that conveys a sense of understanding will always make you look good in the long run.

  2. Listen

    Like we said at the start, feedback is everywhere, and with feedback comes listening. The best way to improve and grow your business is to listen. When someone is complaining through a customer feedback form or via social media, you need to listen and figure out the reason why. Then fix the problem and win the customer back.

  3. Know When to Walk Away

    Just like listening, holding your tongue is equally important. When looking at a negative comment or post, try thinking about the motive. Is this person simply trolling, i.e. making complaints and causing problems for the sake of it, or did they have a legitimate negative experience? If it is the latter, move forward much like you would if a client expressed concerns face to face. If the complaint is not legitimate, then no matter how much you listen, be objective and try to help their situation, it’s a waste of time. While it can be hard to distinguish the two, once you begin to recognise the differences and effectively comment or walk away, you will always stay on top.

  4. Remember to Follow Up

    It’s all well and good dealing with negative comments and reviews head on, but like your positive feedback, never just read it, deal with it and move on. Follow them up a week or a month later, see if the issue has been resolved and if any other steps can improve your relationship and potentially bring them back to being an active customer. For example, "Just checking in! It looks like we were able to [issue resolution] for you but if there's anything else we can do to help you out, let us know." This shows the disgruntled customer that you care about their entire experience, not just addressing the specific complaint. If this is public, even better, the whole world can see your company follows through. 

    As your number of clients reaches new heights, this will certainly become an issue to manage, predict, and collaborate on; which is where a customer support and CRM software will come in really handy. There you will be able to log all of your customer feedback points and set tasks for yourself and other team members to follow up so that no client is forgotten.

  5. Take it Offline

    Some of us enjoy a good argument over social media. However, being more recognisable than your average John Smith from Bolton, a good public debate may not be the best thing for your brand or your staff and can lead to more people jumping in to complain or even troll your feed. If a negative piece of content from a customer is discovered, start by acknowledging the post. Then, politely ask for their contact information or provide your direct email address or phone number to take the issue offline. The last thing you want is to work out the problem publicly. If the comment is simply one from an internet troll, simply ignore it. You could, and some have, attempted to have ‘troll comments’ removed; however, you run a very large risk of things spiralling out of control where you are virally known as being against free speech. If the comment is genuinely ignorant of the facts few will listen to it anyway. Be the bigger person.

  6. Take the High Road

    Being objective is one thing, but portraying that in your brand's voice through its response is something else. Be polite and gracious no matter how angry the post is or how malicious the tweet may be. Unless you’re taking the plunge with Protein World’s strategy to responding, which requires a lot of certainty, your responses should be professional and not show that you are personally offended. This approach will also make it much easier to speak with your disgruntled customers and direct them to take the conversation out of the public eye.

  7. Wait to Investigate

    If you see a lot of these negative comments, tweets or posts, you need to investigate why so many people are unhappy and resolve the underlying problem. If it's a one-off, ask yourself if responding publicly will achieve a positive result. Will the customer be any happier than before they posted? Will it make you look defensive? Will it accomplish anything or convert them into a repeating customer? Put ego aside. Investigations will also help you recognise if the comments are genuine and worth following up. There’s nothing worse than wasting your time resolving a solution when nothing positive will arise from it.

  8. Don't Escalate the Situation

    An obvious one, but in the moment it can quickly be forgotten. If someone in your company doesn’t know the person, if they’re not on your database or seem distantly involved with your company, ignore it. If they are, and you still feel aggravated, give yourself some time before responding. Clear your head and strategise an appropriate response. The worst thing you can do is respond with your own heightened feelings and cause a knock on effect. When you add more and more employees with access to your social media accounts into the mix, the risk then multiplies as there are multiples of emotions to deal with. To manage this, you should always have a working document for social media guidelines that all employees follow.

  9. Respond, Respond, Respond

    Response is key. While we’ve highlighted the importance of mindfulness when responding to illegitimate negative claims, for those that are genuine complaints, make sure you respond. If it's negative and true, give a brief apology and a public offering to right the wrong. If negative and false, politely explain how you tried to resolve the problem. Bottom line: Responding is caring.

  10. Stick to the Talking Points

    There is no upside to debating on social media. Sooner or later the cracks will show, leaving you open to more negative feedback. A slippery slope no matter the strength of your brand. However, as tempting as it may be, if a complaint has some legitimacy, meaning it isn't simply trolling respond with the company's position on the issue and invite the commenter to contact you privately. Don't get sucked into an argument; you'll almost always end up looking worse than if you'd said nothing at all.

Customer feedback management can be a daunting task, and you need to be prepared to handle all forms of feedback to ensure your sales pipeline is fluid and not just freezing up at the top. It’s important to consider both positive and negative feedback, dealing with both in the appropriate manor that reflect your company culture, brand image, and communications strategy. Not doing so can be catastrophic for not only yourself but your employees and even external business relationships.

Optimise the potential to grow your business by responding to both positive and negative feedback, using them as marketing and PR opportunities to show how good your company is and how caring you can be. Use feedback as a stepping stone to growing your business and always measure the internal and external effects it has on your company, considering all possibilities on how this can contribute to your business growth.