Three ways to handle your haters
Dealing with detractors in your customer feedback program is a touchy subject because by human nature we just don’t like being told that we’re not doing well. But burying our heads in the sand is definitely not the right reaction, if we want to leverage a feedback program for its true purpose: improving the business.
So what do you do with negative feedback? Is it even possible to convert an angry customer? In many cases, yes, and when you do, the good news is that you probably secured their longtime loyalty. Engaging upset customers quickly and effectively is proven to actually increase their connection to your brand and allow them to trust you more than customers who haven’t worked to successfully resolve some issue.
To use NPS terminology, “…it might be easier to change a detractor into a promoter than a passive into one. Why? Because they’re passionate (albeit in a negative direction). Passives probably just don’t care enough to have a strong opinion – in either direction” (ConversionXL).
In other words, you should love your haters! Upset customers actually care about your products and services. CX pros know all too well that complainers are known to write more than promoters. Their open text survey responses are typically longer and more detailed than the rave reviews. Bain reports that detractors also account for 80% of negative word of mouth. They are squeaky wheels calling out for your oil!
Think of it this way: they took the time to complain and there is nothing more valuable in our multi-tasking, multi-screen world than TIME. And, they carved out a bit of it just for you. They thought highly enough of your business to bring an issue to your attention, which also presumes that they think you can do better. This is great news.
Here are three things you can do to transform foes into fans:
Set alerts into motion for negative feedback. This is the very first thing you should do because it’s easy and straightforward and quite simply, works extremely well (especially if you’re using a powerful enterprise feedback platform like Clicktools). Automate alerts to account managers and service agents. Set up precise workflows for contacting the person and resolving the problem. Send customized emails to all customers who give you low marks. This instantly acknowledges their dissatisfaction and let’s them know that someone will be contacting them soon. With at risk customers, timing is everything. You don’t want even one day to pass without at least recognizing and communicating that you’ve heard their complaint. Again, these people make up 80% of your negative WOM, so get to them fast — before the Tweets, posts, and online reviews start flying.
Include a human touch. When you receive critical feedback, you’ll definitely want to send an instant communication, as mentioned above. After than, it’s highly recommended to follow that with a phone call. Yes, an actual phone call. This is what separates ok service from legendary service. Train agents to openly discuss problems with humility and humanity. Service teams should also be trained to use phrases like “we apologize” and “we’re sorry that you had a bad experience.” Acknowledging the incident will do far more than defending your processes and policies, and attempting to downplay that person’s bad experience. As we all know from experience, there’s nothing more frustrating than issuing a complaint only to be told that “that’s the policy” or “that’s just how the product works.” The proper response is to develop compassionate service agents who’s primary goal is problem solving. Also, letting customers know that the complaint has been sincerely heard and documented, even if it can’t be fixed immediately.
Pinpoint common problems. Share how you’ll solve them. This is the closed-loop part of the process. As you collect feedback from surveys, develop analysis and reporting that identifies trends. Usually if there’s a problem with your products and services, you’ll hear about it from more than one customer. Tracking commonalities across negative feedback will enable you to determine root causes. On a macro level, the shared complaint topics should be at the top of your list of things to fix. Of course, there will always be micro, one-off issues that you need to address but these can be handled with the two steps above. For systematic issues, create targeted communications that inform detractors of your plan of action to solve the problem. It’s a best practice to have these communications come from a higher level executive (even the CEO). This lets customers know that their complaints made it all the way to the top and that you take their feedback very seriously. They are, after all, what keeps you in business. Honoring your haters and working to heal those relationships by being accountable can separate you from the competition.