5 Customer Support Tips on How to Handle Negative Feedback

Marija Šakić

Customer Success Manager

⏱ Reading Time: 8 minutes

Most customer service agents are well-versed when it comes to standard support processes, but reviews are a completely different can of worms. Whereas you would normally offer support based on a set of standardized procedures, once you’re tasked with product reviews, you will learn they require special skills and effort. 

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This article will outline five basic customer support tips to help you handle negative feedback, learn from it, and use it to your advantage.

Don’t Ignore Anyone

Customer support is the face of every company, and it can often determine a brand’s public image. Although you probably don’t enjoy criticism, keep your cool and don’t take it personally. Bear in mind there are three main reasons people write reviews; to share their experience with others, to draw attention to themselves, or to help you out with their insight. 

Word of mouth is arguably the most effective marketing strategy since people will mostly trust other people over brands. We live in a fast-paced digital age with a very limited amount of time to leave a good impression.  This includes your general demeanor and how you accept criticism. 

While reviews can be a great way for customers to share their experiences, they can sometimes have a less than altruistic purpose. Complaining about something on a public platform is a shortcut to getting what you want, whether it’s a refund, a discount, or anything else. However, you can never be completely sure about the general intention behind negative feedback, so the best approach is to just assume their intentions are pure and proceed with consideration.

Finally, customer feedback can be valuable if taken seriously, and if it leads to positive changes. Make sure to never downplay, dismiss, or ignore a customer’s opinion. Everyone could use an unbiased, fresh pair of eyes, and don’t forget to thank your customers for their insight – it truly is priceless. If you accept their criticism gracefully, it will leave an amazing impression on them and make them appreciate your brand a lot more. 

Read How to Collect Customer Feedback to Improve your CX?

Kill Them with Kindness

Every customer support job listing includes the words “soft skills” – kindness and empathy are the main qualities of a good support agent. However, soft skills are just that; skills. They need to be developed and perfected over time, and that’s not as simple as it may seem at first. 

When dealing with reviews, it helps if you can put yourself in your customers’ shoes. They most likely invested a portion of their hard-earned money into your product, and they expect to receive a certain level of quality. Feeling misled or deceived leaves people with a somewhat bitter taste in their mouths. As a result, they can sometimes justifiably lash out on your reviews page. Still, few people actually leave bad reviews out of pure spite. The majority is most likely trying to warn others or help you improve your product.

According to TrustPilot, “A business doesn’t have to have exclusively glowing reviews in order to help compel people to buy its products or frequent its store. Good or bad, a vast majority of customers will leave businesses a review when prompted, and most consumers have the same agenda for their positive comments as their negative reviews: helping other people make better purchases.”

Although support agents have little to do with product development or marketing, they are often left to handle the backlash, hopefully with maturity and charm. Always say “thank you” and remember your customers are doing you a favor if you take the time to consider their comments.

How to reply to negative feedback - Focus on the positive

Keep It Real

In your damage control efforts, you might be tempted to exaggerate and make unrealistic promises. This can turn out to be very harmful in the long run. Even if you feel like you managed to placate an enraged customer, huge promises can boost their expectations and prove fatal to your reputation if you fail to deliver. 

Don’t underestimate the power of social media and disgruntled customers – if people feel like you lied in order to soothe them or have them modify their reviews, it can completely dismantle your brand’s reputation. Customers are well aware of their rights, and they will not hesitate to share their dissatisfaction with the world. 

Another thing to consider is the fact that honesty has become a commodity – people have sadly grown accustomed to false advertising and misinformation. If you opt for a direct, no-nonsense approach, it’s bound to set you apart from your competition. Even if you have to say “no” or apologize, honesty will earn you a lot of street cred. You can always try to win those customers back as long as they have respect for you. 

Inc.com states: “Almost every business and every product has at least a few flaws. A few bad reviews won’t necessarily prevent people from buying your product. But if there are no reviews that mention your product’s flaws, consumers may become suspicious. They may even lose trust in the positive reviews that you do choose to display. Displaying all your reviews – good or bad – will help you maintain transparency. It shows that you have nothing to hide, and you aren’t trying to deceive anyone.”

Finally, “he who makes no mistakes never makes anything”. Negative feedback actually makes your business seem more legitimate, and the way you address it can be the deciding factor for potential patrons.

Follow Up

Once you’ve replied to your customer and settled their concerns, make sure to follow up with them over a certain period of time. Let’s say a customer leaves a review criticizing you about a missing feature, mentioning the competition. This is valuable feedback you want to forward to your product development team, since this new feature would probably help boost your profile. 

If your team decides to introduce this new feature, make sure to get back to the customer once it’s been released, thanking them for their initial feedback. Not only will they appreciate the fact you took their suggestion seriously, but they might also consider switching to your product if you offer something they’re very interested in. 

A great way to do this is through feature announcements, newsletters and updates. Even when customers decide they’re not particularly satisfied with your product or service, you can still notify them about a new feature or improvement you have released. 

According to the experts at Appcues, “Re-engaging customers is too important to take lightly. You need a fool-proof re-engagement strategy, not a few last-ditch effort emails. Reconnect with your customers—whether it’s through in-product messaging, emails, or even direct mail—and dig deep to find out why they disengaged in the first place. Only then will you be able to prevent your active users from becoming inactive users and improve your overall customer retention strategy.” 

Carefully crafted re-engagement campaigns demonstrate a real concern for your customers’ opinions and makes them feel appreciated. Don’t underestimate the power of a good feature update, newsletter or personalized email. 

Read Re-Engage Customers with These 10 E-Mail Suggestions

RescueTime example

Picture 2. Re-engagement example from RescueTime

Learn from Negative Feedback

If you’re in a young company, it’s important to stay humble and open to advice. Remember, people don’t wish to harm you with bad comments. They are usually just folks trying out your product and hoping to enjoy it. 

The global market is absolutely enormous, and you’re competing with a vast number of companies. That’s why trying to get ahead can be very challenging. Your customers have likely tried dozens of similar products, and you should appreciate their free consulting services. 

Compile feedback, analyze it, and share it with your product development team. Get their opinions, discuss, and draw conclusions. Remember, criticism is only negative if you don’t learn from it. Forward all feedback to your product development team, discuss your options with other departments and follow up with your customers. Even the worst reviews can lead to important improvements and long-term success. Make sure to use all that new information in the most productive way possible.

In conclusion

Learning from your mistakes is crucial on a professional level. Your attitude and efforts can affect the future of your business and the lives of your customers. 

Make sure to address all comments, especially negative feedback – be fast, kind, and realistic. Thank them for their suggestions, take them into consideration, and learn from each interaction. Don’t take it as a personal attack, stay professional, and open to new ideas and perspectives.  

Customers want you to succeed since they’re likely using your product in order to enhance their lives. They’re your allies and that pair of fresh eyes you need to help you learn and grow. Their perspective is invaluable and always try to treat it as such. 

Even when you feel like you’ve lost a customer, remember it’s not over till it’s over. Show appreciation for their feedback and re-engage them through feature announcements, product updates, and newsletters.

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5 Customer Support Tips on How to Handle Negative Feedback was last modified: August 11th, 2020 by Martina Pranjic
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