The 4 Phases of Handling Negative Feedback

negative-feedback
By Caleb Hoopingarner

Words are powerful. Think back to a time when someone spoke something over your life, either negative or positive. What was the outcome? Did those words stick with you as you grew up? Did you start to believe those things said about you, whether uplifting or discouraging? It’s amazing the impact and weight our words carry. Over the past few years of running a highly engaged Facebook page and Blog, we’ve faced our fair share of encouraging and critical words. We’ve all been there before- you put out what you think is an amazing story, post, or email piece, and you get a comment that completely throws you for a loop. Isn’t it crazy how one negative comment can overshadow all of the other inspiring and uplifting comments in a thread? It’s like we disregard the good and only think about that one bad review. While your natural instinct could be to quickly delete the comment and move on with your life, we actually think this is the worst possible reaction. Here’s why: the commenter wants their voice heard. In order to get the most out of this situation, you’ll do yourself and others good by addressing their comment, seeking to understand their perspective, consider what they have to say, and explaining your decision and reasoning to them. If you want to learn to seek the valuable lessons in negative feedback, read on for four phases of handling negative feedback to leave your customer with a positive experience.

1.    Address the comment

So someone left a terrible comment on your Facebook page, a recent blog post, or on some other platform. What you do next shows how in touch you are with your audience. The worst thing you can do is ignore the comment or delete it right away. This shows that you’re either scared to face a little bit of criticism, or you’re only ok with your customers when they say nice things about you. Reality check- being in business is tough, and receiving negative feedback is just part of it. Your goal is to learn from the situation and do what you can to turn the relationship around. Make them feel GOOD about your company despite what they originally thought when they made the comment or review. Maybe they had a bad experience and this is their way of letting you know. Even if you don’t agree with how they are handling it or the words they’re saying, your business can be better because of their comments.  We all want to be heard, which is probably the reason they made the comment in the first place. Hear them out! Remember, your reaction says a lot about you and your company so you want to respond wisely.

2.    Understand their perspective

If someone leaves a negative comment about your company, it’s understandable if you want to get a little defensive. After all, this is your company and you know how good you really are. But hold off on that. Instead, take a deep breath and calm yourself down. Now put yourself in their shoes so you can see from their point of view and try your best to understand where they’re coming from. Is their complaint valid? Would you feel the same way if a certain situation happened to you? Is this something others are experiencing too? If so, you may need to step back and take a look at where this issue is coming from. Even if you still truly believe the comment is false, do your best to view it from the other side, and then respond from that place.

3.    Consider what they have to say

Let’s make this clear right off the bat: you do not have to agree with the negative comment or review. BUT, your customers have a unique perspective that you do not. They feel pain points a lot quicker than you do, and in ways unfamiliar to people on the inside. They might hate the way your website functions when you think it’s incredibly well-designed and user-friendly. This is why listening to what your customers say will make or break your company. After all, you are doing this for them, not the opposite. If they’re talking, you better listen! Could you make some changes for a better customer experience? What are the pros and cons of making a change? Have others made similar comments in the past? Sometimes we are blind to issues and the way we do things in our own company. This is why analyzing negative feedback and making the appropriate changes (when they make sense) can actually help your business more than getting positive comments.

4.    Explain your decision

After taking the comment into serious consideration, it’s time to make your decision and have strong reasoning to back it up. This lets the customer know that you’ve thought over what they had to say and you’ve considered their suggestions. This does not mean you have to make changes simply because of their comment though. Point out the valid points they mentioned in the review and thank them for bringing it to your attention. State your plan of action and tell them why you chose to go a certain route.

Trust us, you are not the only one who receives negative feedback. Here’s an example of one we received and how we handled it.

We have an email list for artists whom we typically send out art workshop information and sale flyers to. Since we received a great response on our Keeton’s Facebook page with our encouraging and inspiring posts, we decided to add to the emails an encouraging story written by a different Keeton’s employee each week. We were blown away by the positive responses we started receiving about these emails. We were truly helping our customers on a deeper, more personal level. However, we did receive an email from a regular customer complaining about how our emails should be strictly art related. Instead of ignoring the customer’s response, we considered what she had to say. Were we sending out too many emails? Were these emails not providing value? How many positive comments have we received? We even looked at the open rate of these emails versus the other emails we were sending out. Our conclusion was to keep the encouraging emails as they were helping far more people than that one customer. We explained to her our reasoning and suggested she just delete the Monday morning emails when they come in.

It’s ok to disagree with negative reviews you receive. The important thing is to hear your customer out and take any and all comments into consideration. You want to keep a positive relationship with them and turn their negative experience into a positive one. Even if you don’t agree with what they have to say, try to come up with a solution that helps them with their problem. Also, don’t take negative reviews to heart. We know how devastating they can be but people just like to voice their opinion. Remember that. Although a punch to the gut can hurt, consider all the positive feedback you get as well. You can’t make everyone happy but you can address their concerns and be understanding to their problems.  Next time you receive a negative comment, stop yourself from deleting it and instead try out these four phases of handling negative feedback to build positive relationships with your not so happy customers. And for more information on your online reputation and why it matters, visit our friends over at Reputation Management. They do a great job at explaining why your reputation is an important thing to consider and some shocking stats you need to know!