Sunday, 30 September 2012

Improving Customer Service Through Negative Feedback

By: Monica Nolan
Addressing negative customer feedback is a vitally important customer service task for companies that want to improve and grow customer engagement.
This article describes just how a company can turn negative customer feedback into a positive experience for the customer and the company.

Business owners often perceive negative customer feedback as an unfortunate consequence of doing business. They often ask themselves, "How can I improve customer service in my company?" The answer is staring them in the face: address negative customer feedback. With the right attention, resolution, and perspective, negative customer feedback doesn't have to be a burden, but a blessing in disguise.

Negative as Negative
There are a number of mediums through which companies receive negative customer feedback. Likely, if customers have something negative to say, they will let others know by 1) sending a scathing email, 2) complaining to others via word of mouth, or 3) ranting over the internet via a blog, forum, or social media outlet.

The adverse effects of negative customer feedback are numerous, so it is imperative not to dismiss these encounters as inevitable. Whether you believe so or not, negative comments are costly to your organization. Since maintaining existing customers is much less costly to an organization, it pays to keep existing customers happy instead of incurring the cost and burden of acquiring new customers. When a legitimate complaint is left unresolved, your reputation is damaged and you can lose more than just one customer. Studies show that an unhappy customer will tell roughly three people to avoid a company or its services. This, in turn, leads to a loss of potential customers and increasingly missed opportunities for positive recommendations.

Negative as Positive
Thankfully, all these potential disasters can be averted. Negative customer feedback can be effectively used in two major ways. First, whether positive or negative, any customer feedback reflects aspects of your business. To this effect, negative feedback is helpful to improve customer service. You cannot solve a problem until you identify it. In its various forms, negative customer feedback can be utilized to motivate employees to modify behaviors, uncover organizational flaws, and adjust practices and policies.

Second, negative customer feedback can also be an effective tool for strengthening and broadening customer engagement, provided the issue at hand is resolved appropriately. Here are a few steps for successfully re-engaging your customers.

-- Never let negative comments stand unresolved; respond directly to whomever submitted the complaint.
-- Since information spreads quickly through word of mouth and the world wide web, it is important to respond swiftly, yet in a controlled and calculated way.
-- When you respond, offer additional resources and information. If you find a similar issue among a growing number of customers, publish a response to these complaints on your website or in your company newsletter so that customers know you are taking action to resolve the issue.
-- Though it may seem counter-intuitive, thank the customer for their feedback. Remember, other people will hear about or be reading your response, so it is an excellent opportunity to display your humility and willingness to learn from your customers.
-- In addition to your direct communication with the customer, if the issue is resolved particularly well, use whatever media forms you have available - Twitter, Facebook, your company web site, blog, newsletter, employee intranet -- and let everyone know.

Understand that you can't please everyone, however if you're receiving complaints on a regular basis it may be time to start evaluating your customer service practices. Effective customer relationship management is an essential key for your business to succeed, customers need to know they are being heard and that companies are continually improving to meet their needs.

~Monica Nolan, 2009
Monica Nolan is an Account Manager for PeopleMetrics.
The strongest customer relationship management solutions are based in strong, actionable information. Contact PeopleMetrics to discuss measuring customer satisfaction for your business sector using a CEM.

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