Five Simple Steps to Deal with Negative Customer Comments

“You want to be extra rigorous about making the best possible thing you can. Find anything that’s wrong with it and fix it. Seek negative feedback.” – Elon Musk, founder of SpaceX and Tesla Motors.

One of the biggest misconceptions companies have about customer service is that negative comments should be ignored or deleted. The reality is, this can often make the situation a lot worse.

When ignored, negative comments can damage your reputation by spreading quickly through word-of-mouth (or word-of-mouse). Business is about people, and more people share bad experiences than good ones. The solution is to leverage negative feedback to reveal consumer pain points, identify opportunities for improvement, and even increase brand loyalty by acting on your new insights.

Using information from negative comments to your advantage, you can quickly address customer complaints and increase your brand loyalty.

How to Deal with Negative Customer Comments

1. Act quickly on negative feedback

Contact customers who have left negative comments as quickly after the interaction as possible. If the comment is online, respond with a short message and tell them you’d like to follow up with a call. This lets them—and others reading the comments—know you care about your customer satisfaction.

2. Listen with respect and interest

Be polite and gracious, no matter how angry they become. Convey a sense of appreciation for their business, and don’t worry about being right. People appreciate being respected, listened to, and taken seriously.

3. Acknowledge their point of view

Negative feedback is often justified. But even when customers are wrong, they have a reason. In their eyes, they cared about your business and had an expectation you weren’t able to meet.

Be flexible, put your value system in your pocket, and be aware of your own prejudices. Only then will you be able to understand where your customers are coming from.

4. Aim to convince, not explain

If you are right and the customer is wrong, acknowledge their feelings before presenting them with your side. This will help them express the authentic emotion that was behind the negative feedback. When your goal is to convince them to give your business another try, rather than explaining why they were wrong, they might even offer to delete the negative comment and replace it with a positive one instead.

5. Never make assumptions

Next time you’re faced with a negative comment, try applying the Hanlon’s razor mental model, heavily used by the greatest leaders of our times: don’t assume bad intentions over neglect and misunderstanding.

As Berkshire Hathaway vice chairman Charles Munger believes, misunderstandings create more confusion in this world than trickery and malice. Often, the best way to react to unhappy customers is by seeking to educate them, not ignoring or blaming them.

By assuming that your customer simply needs more information, you will have a much better opportunity to resolve the issue at hand and change the way they feel about your business.

Face negative comments head-on with the data you need to understand what your customers value most.

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