How to Respond to Negative Customer Feedback

How to Respond to Negative Customer Feedback

If you work in customer service, you know that your customers’ experience with your business can make or break your reputation. When your customers have a great experience with your company, they often praise your business. They may even refer others to your company through this positive feedback.

But when customers have a bad experience with your products or your service, they may do one or all of the following:

  • Post negative reviews online.
  • Submit a formal complaint in an email.
  • Act in frustration while visiting your business.

In fact, some of the statistics are pretty scary:

  • A dissatisfied customer will tell between 9-15 people about their experience. Around 13% of dissatisfied customers tell more than 20 people.– White House Office of Consumer Affairs.
  • A 2% increase in customer retention has the same effect as decreasing costs by 10% –Leading on the Edge of Chaos, Emmet Murphy & Mark Murphy.
  • For every customer complaint there are 26 other unhappy customers who have remained silent –Lee Resource.

The truth is – negative feedback can be a blessing in disguise if managed correctly. As awkward as it is to address customer complaints, they represent a unique opportunity to deepen the relationship with the customer in a unique and lasting way. In fact, when companies resolve customer complaints fast, repurchase probability can change from 32% to 89%

Do you know how to respond to negative customer feedback? In the blog below, we guide you through the proper way to address poor reviews and feedback so you can improve your customers’ overall experience with your business.

1. Take a Step Back

When you first read or hear about negative feedback, your first response is to react defensively. After all, this response is only human. But if you respond immediately after reading negative feedback, you could respond poorly and further agitate your customers.

Instead, take a step back from the situation so you don’t respond in frustration, anger, or offense. Try the following tips:

  • Step away from your desk if the feedback came in an email. Walk around your office or place of business. Try going on a five-minute walk outside if possible. Return to your desk and use the tips in the rest of this blog to draft a response.
  • If a customer called you to give negative feedback, take deep breaths as the person explains the situation to you. Tell the customer you understand the concern, and ask if you can put him or her on hold for a moment. Take a minute or two to calm yourself down before you pick up the phone and address the issue further.
  • If a customer gives negative feedback in person, again start by breathing calmly. Listen to the customer’s complaint. When the customer finishes, acknowledge his or her feelings. Step into your office or away from the scene for a few minutes if necessary. Then, return to the customer and respond to the situation.

The above tips allow you to calmly respond to negative feedback without saying anything harsh or offensive to the customer.


2. Reply to the Feedback Promptly and Politely

Though you don’t want to respond immediately and poorly to negative feedback, you do want to address the issue promptly-and politely. Don’t ignore the problem, as this attitude only frustrates upset customers more. Additionally, ignoring negative feedback can lead customers to give your business worse reviews.

Reply to the review as soon as possible or as soon as you have sufficiently calmed yourself down. Also take the feedback seriously. No matter your opinion, someone else was offended by an employee or had a bad experience with your business. Take the criticism seriously, and tell the customer that you appreciate his or her honesty in bringing the problem to your attention.

The sooner you respond to negative feedback, the happier your customer will feel. If you can resolve the issue quickly, it is likely you will maintain a relationship with the customer.


3. Respond in a More Personable Manner

If possible, avoid responding to negative feedback on the Internet. Make phone calls instead of writing emails, or talk to the customer in person if you can. This approach shows your customer that you received the feedback and that you are willing to resolve the issue.

And responding in a personable manner also shows customers that you take their opinions seriously-and that you value them as customers and as individuals.


4. Start with an Apology

Again, regardless of your opinion, you need to acknowledge that a customer had a bad experience with your company. Customers want to feel validated, so remember to apologize for their negative experience.

Try to use a kind, friendly tone as you respond to the customer’s complaint. You don’t have to draft a lengthy apology-something simple, but specific (like “I’m so sorry that you had such a poor experience with our service”) will do just fine.

Additionally, address the customer by name to make the interaction friendlier. You’ll also make the customer feel like you care about him or her personally and demonstrate your desire to resolve the concern.


5. Keep the Response Direct and Brief

Customers don’t want to read or hear a long explanation about your point of view on the situation. Rather, they want a solution-and they want one promptly. After apologizing for their bad experience, address the complaint itself. Then, offer a solution to the problem.

For example, you can offer the customer a coupon, replace a damaged item, or provide a complimentary gift (such as a free dessert or drink) to show the customer that you want him or her to have good experiences with your business. This step will help customers feel like someone actually listened and took their complaint seriously.

Whatever you choose to do, and whatever you decide to write or say, just remember to keep it direct and brief, but also friendly and understanding.


6. Follow Up With Customers

After you have resolved issues, remember to follow up with customers. Call them, send them a letter, or do something that lets them know you value them and their business. Also ask customers what they think you or your employees should change to prevent other customers from experiencing the same issue in the future.

The next time you receive negative customer feedback, use the tips above as you respond to the situation and remember negative customer feedback is an opportunity to deepen the relationship and bond with your customer – it’s a blessing in disguise!


To learn more about Opinionmeter’s Enterprise Survey Solution, please contact Opinionmeter at 888.676.3837 or visit And please share this with any of your colleagues who might find it of interest. Thank you.


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